The graduates of Dartmouth High School finally get to dance again.
About 200 of them will celebrate prom at a hotel in downtown Halifax on Saturday night. It's weeks later than usual with a few pandemic modifications in place, including 10 dance floors, two ballrooms and two DJs.
The grads will be spread out over the two rooms, seated in groups of 10. They are only allowed to dance and mingle with their cohorts.
None of that puts a damper on the party for Josie Franson, who's looking forward to donning the prom dress she bought last fall.
"We're all looking forward to the weekend, just getting to have one final evening with our high school friends and classmates before we go our separate ways this fall, so there's a lot of excitement in the air right now," Franson, who is co-president of the school's student council, told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Friday.
After months of COVID-19 restrictions, teacher-turned-prom-planner Angela Jones-Rieksts can't help but think of the classic 1984 film Footloose, in which a young Kevin Bacon convinces a small town to overturn its ban on dancing.
"I've been saying from Day 1 that this is Footloose because the government kept saying no dancing, no dancing, no prom, no prom, and so this has been my joke the whole time," a chuckling Jones-Rieksts said.
Jones-Rieksts, whose son is in Grade 12 at the school, said the pandemic prom will be a "very controlled" celebration, with grads required to wear a mask and complete a COVID-19 screening when they arrive.
In order to accommodate a couple hundred people, the organizers had to book two ballrooms, each with five dance floors. Two tables of 10 can use their designated dance floor at the same time, as long as they stay distanced.
The grads also got to have a say in choosing those at their table so they could be with their friends.
Several students, including Franson, first approached Jones-Rieksts in April asking for help to plan the prom, shortly after Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said school-organized proms would be cancelled.
She got busy planning, and then the province went into lockdown at the end of April as COVID-19 cases spiked.
"That really threw a kink into our plan and really put everything on hold," said Jones-Rieksts.
It wasn't until the province released its four-phase reopening plan several weeks later that the organizers saw an opportunity to delay the prom until July.
Planning two proms
They wanted to wait until Nova Scotia entered Phase 4, which happened on Wednesday, so that larger groups could gather and students could once again hit the dance floor.
"When we did hear at the final hour that we were going to be allowed dancing, I was thrilled," Jones-Rieksts said.
"But also I was worried because I didn't have it in the budget for two DJs because everything has to be done in double, so that's a key difference with this prom, is that it's really two proms that you're organizing."
She quickly turned to the school community to raise the money needed to hire an extra DJ and to help pay for tickets for several students who needed financial assistance.
It won't be a typical prom, with many grads wearing masks to match their outfits, but it will be one they'll never forget.
"We're all just really looking forward to getting to spend the evening together and dancing in our shared bubble groups," Franson said.
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