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Richmond-area schools host a 'normal' prom season for first time in two years

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After two years of uncertainty, many area schools are returning to a “normal prom” season, complete with prom dresses, limo rides and dancing in ballrooms across the city.

Corinne Matheson, a senior at Clover Hill High School in Chesterfield, and her friends were relieved when they found out they could have a “real” prom at the Hotel John Marshall in downtown Richmond.

“I have a lot of friends who graduated in 2021. They never got a real prom.

They were bummed,” she said.

For a while, Matheson wasn’t sure if she would get the senior prom she’d always dreamed of. Last year, senior prom was held as a drive-thru event in the school parking lot where seniors could stop and get pictures taken at stations.

In the fall, the homecoming dance was held in the parking lot for safety concerns, due to the lingering effects of the pandemic. Since she was a freshman, Matheson had been dreaming of a traditional prom experience.

“Our plan was to go out to dinner, take pictures and have a good time. And luckily, that’s what we were able to do this year,” she said. Matheson and her friends got dressed up, went to dinner at The Daily in Carytown and took pictures at Mid-Lothian Mines Park.

“It’s not very often you get to dress up in a ball gown,” Matheson said. “I’ll remember it always.”

As of Monday, the CDC’s most recent data showed the daily average for new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. was 56,166, and 82.5% of the population has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

After two years of putting prom plans on ice, Richmond Public Schools is returning to a normal prom season this year too.

“Given low COVID rates in our community and even lower rates in our schools, all RPS high schools have been given the approval to proceed with planning for proms,” Sarah Abubaker, a spokesperson for RPS said via email.

Shaniece Gentry, a senior at George Wythe High School, is finalizing plans to attend prom at the Hippodrome this month. With the last two years being canceled, she and her friends worried they wouldn’t be able to have a prom this year.

“This is something we’ve been looking forward to all our lives. We want our special moment,” she said.

“We’re going to get our hair and makeup done, go out to eat and take some pictures before heading to the Hippodrome to enjoy our night,” she said.

To attend Richmond Pubic Schools prom, all students must be vaccinated or show evidence of a recent negative COVID test. Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover do not require vaccines or proof of a negative test. For many students, prom is a rite of passage — a marking of sorts from adolescence to adulthood. And for the past two years, many students missed out on that symbolic moment due to the pandemic.

Gentry is looking forward to one last big night out with her friends before heading off to Virginia State University in the fall where she will major in hospitality and minor in business.

“It’s our last moment to be around each other before we split up for life. It’s a sad but happy moment at the same time. I’m proud of where everyone is going and getting accepted to college,” Gentry said.

(804) 649-6151

Twitter: @collcurran


Colleen Curran is the living editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She also covers arts and entertainment, pop culture and social media.

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