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Prom is on at Utah schools this year with 'Test to Sway'

Posted at 10:28 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 00:28:42-05

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — School districts across the state are starting to hammer out their plans to host prom and other school events this spring. It's thanks to the new health order announced this week, that now allows some school activities to once again take place.

These plans include strict protocols and rules to follow, such as testing for Covid-19 and mask wearing. School districts are calling it, "Test to Sway."

On Thursday evening, a group of Taylorsville High School students stood in line at Chick-fil-A just kitty corner from their school.
"Hey!" senior Tyler Cox said, waving to a classmate who walked in the door as he stood, waiting to order.

The fast-food restaurant was serving up high school fun for Spirit Night. The event was put on to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to help a child with Leukemia.

Plus, as an added bonus, students like Tyler got to safety gather with friends during the pandemic and feel somewhat normal.
Kids laughed and danced while in line.

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Prom is on

These kinds of after school activities have been few and far between this school year.

Tyler pulled up photos from last year on his phone, back when he could hang out in groups with no masks.

"It's funny," he said, looking down at his phone. "You just look at photos and you're like, 'Wow, we really, like, were able to do that.' It kind of feels unreal, which is sad."

The last time the 18-year old senior went to a school dance was a full year ago. Tyler has since then had to wonder if his junior year Sweethearts dance would turn out to be his last school dance ever.

He wondered if he would never get the experience of going to prom.

"There wasn't a lot of hope," he said. "Because, there was kind of this sentiment that this year was kind of a lost cause."

A lost cause, that is, until this week when the new health order came out with loosened restrictions.

Tyler learned exciting news: His senior prom, is on.

"Those extracurricular activities-- they really like help energize," he said. "Not only, like, 'Oh I'm going to do something fun,' but like, 'Oh I want to do school now. I want to get good grades.'"

Granite School District Ben Horsley said the district met with a committee Thursday morning, to review how they can pull off enacting activities within schools and what type of protocols would be necessary.

Their school district is one of many around the state meeting and discussing what a prom, senior banquet, or graduation will look like during the pandemic.

The preliminary plan they've come up with, he explained, includes giving any secondary school (middle, junior high and high schools) the option to host up to three events before the school year is over.

The obvious ones for schools like Taylorsville High include the senior banquet, and prom.

"Two days in advance of that or the day before... you're going to come to the school, you're going to get a rapid antigen test, with the result available in few minutes," Horsley said. If the test is negative, he said, "You would then get a wrist band, and the school would then know that you had been tested."

The student could then come onto school property and participate in that activity, he said.

Anyone who has had Covid-19 within 90 days of the event can attend without a test, he said, as long as they can provide the paperwork of their test result.

Students who have passed the two-week mark beyond a second dose of the vaccine can also attend without a test, he said.

The Granite School District is also planning to allow elementary schools to hold field days, but no other events.

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Hammering down plans

In addition to Granite having preliminary plans locked down, districts including Jordan, Canyons and Alpine have come up with similar protocols.

FOX 13 found that no two school district plans are alike.

Jordan School District

In the Jordan School District, spokesperson Sandy Riesgraf said that right now high schools are planning on allowing two events-- Prom and a Senior Dinner Dance.

"Students who attend must be tested 48 hours prior to the event and test negative. They must also wear a mask," she wrote. The Jordan School District is not planning to allow any middle/junior high or elementary events, she indicated.

Canyons School District

Jeff Haney with the Canyons School District explained that they are allowing two school dances, and only at the high school level.

Canyons will also allow "Test to Travel," which allows high schoolers to go on an overnight trip in the state with a negative rapid antigen test 48 hours before the trip. Once on the trip, he said, only two students can sit next to each other on the bus, wear masks at all times and use hand sanitizer. Only two students can stay in one hotel room, he said.

Alpine School District

At the Alpine School District, spokesperson David Stephenson said they are looking at allowing one dance in April and one dance in May per high school.

The school district has also sent out a survey to seniors, senior parents and teachers asking what they'd like graduation to look like. Stephenson said they gave three options to choose from: 1. Mirror last year, with individualized or small groups, 2. Host a ceremony at the school but outside on the football field, 3. Host a traditional graduation at BYU or UVU (where the graduations usually take place), if the venues are available.

Tooele County School District

Marie Denson with the Tooele County School District said one of their schools already held a dance recently, a Sweethearts dance that she said went well with little to no issue with students following guidelines.

She said all schools will have to submit a plan to their area directors on how they will safely hold an event (including prom), and it must be in line with county and state health protocols.

This includes but is not limited to having a negative Covid test, wearing face masks, and attendance at the events are limited, she said.
"Once the plan is approved the school can move forward with the event," Denson said, via text message.

Other school districts

Some districts have yet to come up with plans and protocols. Chris Williams with the Davis School District said they haven't met yet to discuss the details.

At the Weber School District, Lane Findlay said there has been some discussion, but everything right now is preliminary. They still need to coordinate with the health department and look at testing options, he said.

With the change in the health order so new, Caleb Price at the Provo City School District said they are just starting to look into how they will potentially hold activities. They don't have any protocols in place yet, he said.

Something to look forward to

Horsley said they want to make the school year as normal as possible.

"With these types of protocols, we really do feel like that can be conducted in a safe manner," Horsley said. "And help keep not just the students safe, but the community as a whole."

And just like "Test to Play" for athletes, and "Test to Stay" for schools, they'll now have "Test to Sway."

"I know it's super cheesy," Horsley jokingly acknowledged, with a smile. "I apologize in advance."

No need to apologize-- Tyler is excited he can go to his senior prom.

He said he only gets one shot, one chance at going to prom. And to have that chance, he said, is something he'll remember forever.

"As a senior, like I can't describe to you how much it means. Because it kind of feels people are giving up on us, or have given up on us," Tyler said. "And now it's like, 'Oh, like, there was all this stuff that they were working on. And it's all falling into place now.' We're actually getting a chance to make memories. That's what really matters."