Around 3 p.m. Friday afternoon, state health officials recommend large public gatherings of 100 people or more be postponed or canceled.
The Department of Education took the recommendation seriously and informed school principals.
Students at Kahuku High School got word that their prom would be canceled via voicemail around 8:30 p.m. Friday night.
Their prom was supposed to take place Tuesday night.
Kahuku High School’s principal posted on the school website that the DOE is following DOH guidance of not exceeding the threshold of 100 people or more at public events.
Kapolei High School canceled its junior prom just hours before it was set to take place. In an email sent to parents the principal wrote:
To protect the public’s health and wellbeing, the Hawaii Department of Health is recommending large, crowded gatherings or public events that include 100 people or more be postponed or canceled. These events include concerts and conferences, as well as professional, college and school sporting events. The Department of Health is recommending smaller gatherings held in enclosed spaces that do not allow social distancing also be postponed or canceled or held virtually. When possible, attendees should be no fewer than two-arms-length or six feet apart. Elderly adults and those with underlying health conditions who are at a greater risk for COVID-19 or respiratory illnesses should avoid attending large public gatherings.
With this new information, I regret to inform you that this evening’s Junior Prom is canceled. This decision was not made lightly and I sincerely apologize for the late notice and great inconvenience this will cause our students and families.
Parents at Kahuku High School said refunds are still being discussed. James Campbell High School, who also announced they would be canceling their prom, said refunds would be given.
Tealani Wasson, a junior at Kahuku High School, was shocked when her mom told her the news.
“It was the most devastating day of my life,” said Wasson. “I was like ‘What? And my next-door neighbors we could hear them and they were all saying ‘What?’”
Wasson showed the video of how her prom date asked her to the dance.
“Her date put in a lot of effort and I just feel bad,” said Wasson’s mom Genevieve. “I mean now that’s taken away. I know safety is first but what can we do? We have to just be mindful of everybody else getting sick.”
“I just think they should still have it,” said the high school junior. “What can we do to have our prom go on but still take precautions? Should we have it outside? Or should we have it at a different place?”
Her mom said, “If they’re going to cancel prom, then they should cancel school too because it’s the same thing.”
Some Kahuku seniors are absolutely devastated by the news and said they can’t get their money back for their dresses, hair or nails.
“I think my heart just dropped because the virus is canceling a lot of things, and it’s my senior year,” said Savannah Taosoga. “I was really sad, and I try to hold it in but honestly, I was crying and yesterday, just two hours before I got the phone call, I had my hair done.”
Kahuku senior Teija Crawford said prom is such a big deal for the Red Raiders that her family from Utah flew in for the dance.
“I feel like it brings everyone together,” she said.
“I’m glad people are taking precautions about this type of thing but at the same time, I just feel like if they would have let us known a little earlier because then we wouldn’t have spent so much money on everything,” Crawford said.
The girls said they now worry about graduation, senior luau and project grad all being canceled.
“BYU canceled their graduation, and they’re not in school right now, but what would make us think they would allow another school to graduate at their activity center?” said Taosoga.
“We’ve been in school for 12-13 years looking forward to things like prom and graduation and it’s all getting taken away from us just because of this virus,” she added.
The seniors said they’re frustrated by the 100 people or more rule because they are still in school.
“That doesn’t make sense to me and it made me mad because every day we gather at lunch in the cafeteria and there are over 100 kids in the cafe and everyone’s touching the plates, everyone’s touching the forks, the metal area, so how does that make sense to cancel prom but we have to come to school?” asked Taosoga. “If they’re so worried about coronavirus then we’re obligated to come to school and be more at risk for it?”
The high school seniors are hoping prom can be postponed and suggested getting temperature checks by a doctor and then having a note that would approve them to go to prom.
“I just really hope we can do something to get our prom back because so much money and time has been put into this,” said Crawford.
Wasson’s mom suggested possibly doing dinner with smaller groups so the girls can wear their dresses, and their dates can wear their tuxedos.
For now, the DOE said students are expected back at school following Spring Break.
In a statement, the DOE said“We appreciate the understanding and patience of our students, staff, and parents during this quickly developing pandemic situation. The Hawaii DOE is continuing to follow guidance from the Hawaii Department of Health in response to COVID-19 mitigation efforts. There are numerous discussions happening at all levels to analyze the impacts of the guidance regarding public events and group gatherings issued yesterday afternoon. Official updates will continue to be posted on our website at www.hawaiipublicschools.org and on our social media accounts.”