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No prom for Smithfield, Windsor students

For the second year in a row, there will be no prom for Smithfield or Windsor high school students.

While Virginia eased some of its COVID-19 restrictions on April 29 now that the spread of the disease has slowed and roughly 45% of the state’s population has received at least one vaccine dose, Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order No. 72 still mandates that public and private in-person gatherings, to include school dances, be capped at 50 individuals if indoors, and 100 if outdoors.

According to Isle of Wight County Schools spokeswoman Lynn Briggs, neither high school is able to comply with this limit. Each school informed parents the week of April 19-23 of the division’s decision to cancel prom, she said.

Some parents have taken to Nextdoor.com, a hyperlocal social media forum that allows residents of specific neighborhoods to connect and exchange information, goods and services, to vent their frustrations.

Leah Klinger, whose son graduated from SHS last year, missed his prom due to COVID-19. Now her daughter, who will graduate this June, stands to miss hers as well.

“It’s pretty sad for us to think of having no prom memories for both kids,” she writes.

As for the possibility of an alternative private event put together by parents, “I think the hesitation for someone to do so is liability, due to injury or illness during an event,” Klinger said. “People are quick to sue even if good-hearted folks are involved.”

IWA, which has 54 juniors and 41 seniors enrolled this year, went ahead with its prom this year on April 30 at an outdoor facility. Not all attended, so the school was within the 100-attendee limit. Masks were required and attendance was limited to juniors and seniors — no outside guests.

There are more than 1,300 students at Smithfield High School alone this school year, according to the Virginia Department of Education. More than 300 of these are seniors. Another 553 are enrolled at Windsor High School, of which 136 are seniors.