ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County high schools will have school-sanctioned proms this year, albeit under CDC guidelines, which means only seniors can attend with one guest, and masks are required indoors.

Last year, both the Cherokee and Volunteer proms were officially canceled due to the pandemic, although an effort led by community members and student governments at both schools allowed unofficial proms to take place.

Cherokee held its unofficial prom in downtown Rogersville last year and has already been approved by the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen for an official prom that will be held downtown on May 15.

“See if this can become more of a tradition”

Cherokee Principal David Kenner told the Times News last month that downtown Rogersville was selected for the school’s official 2021 prom because it is an outdoor location with plenty of room for students to spread out.

“There is not a more beautiful area than downtown Rogersville,” Kenner said. “Plus, as an added benefit, we will not have to purchase as many decorations.”

Kenner added, “Last year, a parent group took charge of organizing and hosting the prom. They did an outstanding job and the kids seemed to really enjoy it. So we felt like it may be a good opportunity to see if this can become more of a tradition.”

Mask rule leads to masquerade theme

When Volunteer’s prom was canceled last year, the school already had a paid contract to hold its prom at MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center in Kingsport. Instead, students held their unofficial prom at the Sayrah Barn, which is located on the far eastern outskirts of Rogersville on Highway 11-W.

Volunteer Principal Greg Sturgill told the Times News on Monday that his school’s 2021 prom will be at MeadowView on May 8, assuming there isn’t a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“We have secured double the space we normally rent for the event,” Sturgill said. “The SGA (Student Government Association) has suggested doing a masquerade theme this year since masks will be required.”

Seniors who attend Clinch School will be invited to attend Cherokee’s prom.

“We have a plan for social distancing in place”

Hawkins County school administrators met on March 18 to determine the fate of this year’s proms. Director of Schools Matt Hixson told the Times News on Wednesday the plan is to allow both proms to move forward under Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

“The CDC wants to make sure that we have a plan for social distancing in place,” Hixson said. “How we’re accommodating for that is we’re basically limiting the size of the group. Prom would be relegated to a senior plus a guest. We’re trying to keep the group sizes smaller.”

Hixson added, “I believe Cherokee’s is down here on (Rogersville’s) Main Street outdoors, so that’s a mitigation standard that we can cite that aids in preventing the spread. Masking will be required for those events that are indoors.”

Other student activities such as sports have been allowed to take place, and Hixson said he and his staff couldn’t justify holding those events and not proms.

“When we’re approving sports events — wrestling with two students wrestling each other in close contact, and we’re not allowing for prom — there’s kind of an issue there,” Hixson said. “So we wanted to make sure we’re offering for as many regular extracurricular activities as possible, while staying inside the guidelines and recommendations of our regional health offices.”