WESTPORT, Mass. (WPRI) — Just a few weeks before Westport High School was to have its senior prom, students were told it wouldn’t be happening this year.
That decision didn’t sit well with Mindi Benevides.
“Since the school did announce it, these parents went out and bought very expensive dresses, and then pulled the rug out,” she told 12 News.
Mindi said she had a feeling that might happen, so she and her daughter Faith had a backup plan ready: book The Pearl in Taunton and hold their own prom on June 20.
That date was chosen strategically because it’s four days after the Class of 2021’s commencement.
“We did it after graduation so that Westport couldn’t come back and say, ‘you guys weren’t supposed to have a prom, you guys weren’t supposed to be all together in the same room, so you aren’t allowed to walk at graduation,'” Faith explained.
According to Mindi, there’s been some backlash from members of the community who say it’s not safe to hold a big event like a prom. She assured that school rules will be upheld and enforced, saying the private party will be for seniors only, limited to 125 attendees, and students won’t be allowed reentry once they leave.
Around 10 parent chaperones will also be on hand to make sure the rules are followed so that another high school memory isn’t taken away by the pandemic.
“We just want these kids to get a prom,” Mindi said. “They’ve missed their homecoming, they missed their junior prom. Most of these kids were on the National Honors Society. They didn’t get to walk the stage.”
The mother-daughter duo says prom tickets will be $50 apiece, but they’re hoping to raise enough money to cover the cost. They’ve started a GoFundMe page to help pay for the venue, decorations and party favors.
“We have everything together,” Faith added. “They are going to cater our food for us, so now it’s just getting money to get everybody’s tickets for the prom make sure everybody has a great time.”
12 News reached out to Westport Superintendent Thomas Aubin for comment. He didn’t discuss the prom directly, but sent along guidelines from the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that strongly recommend schools not have prom and instead substitute alternative celebrations.
“Prom is an inherently high-risk activity, as it is a social gathering that involves dancing and singing (both of which are activities with increased respiration), and also presents concerning opportunities for students to break health and safety protocols in a relaxed environment,” the guidelines read.
Any school that decides to hold a prom is advised to wait until after the school year, according to the guidelines, and the state’s safety standards for indoor and outdoor events must be followed.