The official school sanctioned Portland High School prom was cancelled when schools were called off for the remainder of the semester. But parents and students are banding together to hold an unofficial at the same location as last year’s gala.

The show must go on.

Despite school being cancelled for the remainder of the semester and all events associated with school going by the boards along with it, students and parents in Portland are still planning to hold a prom.

Plans now are calling for a parent-led prom to take place on June 13 at Spring Lake Farms. The original Portland prom was scheduled in April, and then postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then, when Gov. Bill Lee recommended that the school semester be ended, Sumner County cancelled the official prom at every school in the county.

Some schools have had parent-led plans to hold a prom independent of the school, which cannot have any official affiliation with it due to liability issues now that the school board has cancelled it.

While some parents are getting a taste of trying to hastily organize a prom for the first time, since the school usually oversees that action, Portland High School is in better shape than most in that regard. The prom has been a parent and student committee led venture at PHS for many years. So while the prom committee won’t have access to funds previously raised through the school, they are hoping to have enough donations of money and services to have this year’s prom for the Class of 2020 free of charge.

“This actually started quite a while back. We had originally planned when the school was still going to be able to do the prom, we had a plan to go just like usual. Then when everything happened, we got together a plan to have the prom for free,” said Rene Loza, who is part of the prom committee. “That was still using a little portion of the school funds we had been saving. Then when it was announced that there would be no school proms in the county, then of course, we had to change. We changed that plan.

“We’re the only parent-led prom in the county and have been for almost two decades. So for us, it’s probably easier than other schools, because other schools, such as Westmoreland, etc., the parents have not had much interaction at all with the prom, whereas we do have that experience.”

Loza and the committee decided to streamline the process as best they could in a number of areas, and have gotten help on several fronts from those willing to donate.

“So we decided to say, ‘OK, we can’t tap into any funds that we’ve already raised. We basically have to raise funds again.’ How we did that was we said we did not want to make it monetary. We wanted to do it on a gift and donation basis and cut down on paperwork and let people know what they were actually donating for. So that’s the route we decided to go, and we’ve been very blessed in it,” Loza said. “Ms. (Jan) Bradshaw at Spring Lake Farms has graciously donated the venue, which we’ve paid for the past few years. That, in itself, saved us around $6,000. That is amazing. Angie Flatt is donating her time and resources for the formal photos, which is massive.

“We have a gentleman who is donating the DJ from 107.5 The River. He’s a friend of one of the committee members. Because we have done prom before, we have a lot of decorations and we’re going to use decorations that we already have.”

Flatt said she was happy to donate her time and shoot photos of the prom. She was the prom photographer last year as well.

“The class of 2020 has missed out on so many of the fun activities that I got to experience my senior year. Although, the timing will be a bit off, I’m glad the organizers haven’t given up on it. I figured if there was anything I could do, I’d try to help,” Flatt said. “A lot of these kids’ parents are frontline workers or essential employees while others were furloughed, so hopefully prom and the cost will be one less thing they’ll have to worry about.”

One thing the committee is hoping someone will step up and purchase is the big seven-foot tall numbers that say “2020.” Those cost around $250, according to Loza, and the hope is that those numbers might be able to be bought and rented out for graduation parties as well.

Others are donating food and drinks for the prom.

Loza said she expects that the prom attendance might be down this year from the usual number of around 350 kids who attend each spring. This year, there will still be a senior walk at the prom, but parents will not be attending this year in order to keep the numbers down in attendance.

“Typically we have around 350 people who attend. That’s our usual number. We don’t expect that many this year. One thing we’re having to do because of everything going on is usually we have the senior walk and the senior parents get to come watch,” Loza said. “Because we’re trying to keep our numbers down, we’re not allowing the senior parents to come this year. We’ll still have the walk, but the parents won’t be there, so we’ll be better able to keep our numbers in place.”

This year, an e-vite is also being used for invitations and registration for the prom, which will also help to keep costs down and make things more streamlined.

There is still the issue of working through prom security, as the parent-led prom will not be allowed to use the school SROs or the Sumner County Sheriff’s Department since it cannot be affiliated with the school this year.

“We’re still trying to get coordinated with our security. Prior years, when we had it in Sumner County, then the SROs and the sheriff’s department take care of that. But we’re not able to do that this year. We have to follow the guidelines on how to go about having security and liability coverage for that,” Loza said.

Despite all the obstacles, Loza thanked the students and parents who have volunteered their time as part of the committee. She said that the committee is determined to go forward and make sure that the prom takes place this year for the students.

“The prom committee is composed of parents and students that volunteer in the beginning of the school year. I cannot stress enough how important our committee is and how hard they work and how involved our students have been this year, and how these parents feel that,” Loza said. “These juniors, and especially seniors, deserve a prom. There were some of us who said that no matter what we were having a prom. These kids deserve this if there’s any way possible. Unless the governor says you’re not allowed to go out, we’re having a prom, and we’ve been very blessed to make that happen.”

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