Ferndale, Berkley schools get proms up and running once again

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 10, 2021

 Khayla Ware enjoys Ferndale High School’s prom at the Roostertail in Detroit May 7.

Khayla Ware enjoys Ferndale High School’s prom at the Roostertail in Detroit May 7.

Photo provided by Ferndale Public Schools

 Ferndale High School students hang out at their prom at the Roostertail May 7. Students weren’t able to have a prom last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ferndale High School students hang out at their prom at the Roostertail May 7. Students weren’t able to have a prom last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo provided by Ferndale Public Schools


FERNDALE/BERKLEY — Amid all the terrible repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, its effect on the school system has been a notable one.

While the majority of the focus has been on students learning in and out of the classrooms, there also has been a major loss of social activity and interaction among the students over the past year.

A big event in the lives of high schoolers everywhere is prom, which normally takes place near the end of each school year. Because of the pandemic, the proms in the Ferndale and Berkley school districts had to be canceled last year.

Now, after one year, both districts decided to bring back proms for their students, albeit under coronavirus protocols.

Ferndale High School held its prom in a tent at the Roostertail in Detroit May 7. The decision to hold the event came after the administration began hearing from seniors about their desire to bring it back for 2021.

“Because we just kept hearing the students’ voices, we wanted to make sure that we had something,” Principal Radhika Issac said.

While the school began to make a big push to start planning an in-person prom back in March, Issac said they also came up with backup plans in the event everything had to be canceled again.

Issac further said that organizers had been operating under a mentality of, “We’ll have it in person until we’re told not to.”

“That positivity is what kind of led to us putting in a lot of effort for something that most of us weren’t sure would happen,” she said. “At some point, it was 50-50 that we couldn’t even gather in-person, but just having the student voices and the students continually asking and advocating for it helped the administration say, ‘OK, let’s just keep going forward until we can’t.’”

According to Issac, there were approximately 100-120 people at the prom, including chaperones. At first only seniors were allowed to purchase tickets, but it was opened up to juniors later on.

Rapid testing was conducted at the site in order for attendees to enter. There also was assigned seating, and those who traveled together to prom had to stay together. While music was offered as entertainment for the evening, there was no open floor dancing.

“It was a little disheartening to not have this physical closeness in a prom that you would expect with dancing and all these other things,” Issac said. “A lot of parents were unsure if it would be worth it to have a prom, but we wanted to forge ahead to just have a celebration … for those that are open to participating in it.”

Berkley High School will have its prom at the Royal Oak Farmers Market May 13.

“We’re helping students with academics, we’re helping students get back to sports, but the social part is something that they are really just craving, I think, and that’s been a huge loss this year,” student leadership teacher Stefanie Coburn said. “This feels like one little bit of normal that we’re giving back to them.”

The school decided to formulate its own safety protocols for the event. This includes rapid testing for those who are attending, only seniors are allowed to attend and no students from other schools can come as dates.

“It’s friends or in school-only dates that are seniors, and it’s kind of a bummer, but it was an easy decision because it was either limit it to only seniors or we didn’t do it,” Coburn said. “A lot of schools aren’t doing it, so we were really, really pleased that administration was allowing us to do it at all.”

Coburn said they had several priorities in their attempt to get a prom off the ground. One was to do it in a safe manner, while another was to temper the budget, as they didn’t have as many fundraising opportunities this school year to do anything big. This meant that meals couldn’t be offered, but music and small snacks could.

As the farmers market isn’t a tight, condensed area, Coburn said there wasn’t a need to have seating requirements or have specific rules about dancing.

“We just want these kids to be super safe and we don’t want to put anyone at risk at all who is willing to come,” she said. “It might not be perfect, it might not be the way that we normally would do it in years past, but at least we’re getting the kids together that want to come together, and hopefully in a really safe way.”