Presque Isle High School prom heading off-campus

17 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – Tuxedos and gowns have been tried on and altered, corsages have been ordered, vehicles washed and waxed, and the University of Maine at Presque Isle Campus Center has been reserved for the Presque Isle High School Class of 2007’s senior prom.
    According to Eric Waddell, PIHS principal, the prom will be held this Saturday, and this is the first class in recent years to have the senior prom off-campus.
“[The location for the prom] is really up to the kids, and the Class of 2007 wanted it at the Campus Center,” he said. “This doesn’t mean that the prom is always going to be at the Campus Center; the Class of 2008 may elect to have it here.”
The senior class’ Leadership Cabinet voted on the proposal after talking to their fellow students.
“A lot of kids were supportive of it and actually understood why we were doing it … the money aspect,” said Whitney Jandreau, senior class president. “Some kids were hesitant and didn’t want to break tradition, and some of the boys had worries about not being able to drive their vehicles up the tunnel.
“We compromised, and we’ll be forming a parade at the school at 6 p.m. so they’ll be able to drive through the tunnel and rev their engines,” she said. “We’ll go down Blake and onto Main Street. We’ll also be escorted by the local police.”
The principal said he has not received “one complaint about changing the location.”
“I kind of expected people to express some concerns by virtue of the fact that we’re breaking tradition,” he said. “This is a very traditional community and this is a very traditional school, and traditions run deep. I respect and appreciate that, but this decision was really based on finances.”
Senior class advisor Ellyn Whitten Smith said the “average cost” of a prom is $10,000.
“It costs between $3,000 and $4,000 alone just to decorate the ceiling with gossamer,” she said. “Typically the kids would pick a theme, and buy a bunch of cardboard decorations from a company that would come in a million pieces, and you have to schedule massive amounts of time and student power to put them together and haul them up to the gym.
“Because of the decorations,” Whitten Smith said, “the gym is closed for a week. We are stealing faculty members’ classrooms for a week for a four-hour dance. Our thinking was, ‘Why do we want to decorate the gym when there’s a beautiful space across town and all we have to do is put up a few decorations?’”
Waddell said it’s virtually impossible to completely transform a gymnasium into a suitable prom location.
“Unless your theme is ‘A Night in the Gym,’ you have to transform it,” he said. “You have to cover bleachers, basketball hoops, backboards and rims; and the rafters. It used to be that the gym was decorated with standard two-inch wide streamers hung from a big frame on the ceiling down to wire that was put all around the walls.
“Most recently they’ve been using gossamer to decorate the gym,” said Waddell, “but either way, it’s a big expense and no matter how you decorate, a gym is a gym. Plus it’s only up for one evening. Sunday morning the custodians come in and take it all down.”
Since the prom will be at the Campus Center, students and volunteers won’t have to do as much decorating because “everything already looks nice.”
Waddell said that the district in no way funds the senior prom.
“It’s all money that the seniors raise,” he said. “What the senior class is doing with the money they’re saving on decorating is having a fully catered, sit-down dinner … prime rib, roast chicken, salmon … with a full wait staff.”
Seniors will still be able to make their grand entrance, as a police escort will lead the parade of vehicles at 6 p.m.
“Students will then go into the north entrance of the University, move in the direction by Gentile Hall, and down to the Campus Center,” said Waddell. “We’ll park three cars at a time with valet parking, and the students will be announced as always.
“The goal is to have everyone in by 7 p.m. and start the dinner at 8 p.m.,” he said. “That’s when we’ll ask people who aren’t there for the prom to leave. After dinner, the kids will dance and the prom will end at midnight, which has been the case since 1990.”
Waddell said he hopes the students will have a safe, fun evening.
“Every principal in every school in the country sleeps with one eye open on prom night,” he said, “hoping the phone doesn’t ring. Knock on wood; I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’m very relieved when morning comes and my phone hasn’t rung.”
Waddell said he’s “proud of the class for giving it a try.”
“It’s going to be fun, new and different,” he said. “It was coming to the point where we were going to have to do something different because of the cost, so I’m proud they’re stepping up and recognizing the need to try something new. They’re pioneering a new idea, and I think the Class of 2008 is already thinking about following their lead.”
Recognizing that prom is a significant event in many students’ lives, Jandreau said, however, it’s important to keep focused on the bigger picture.
“I know some kids think that prom is the most important day of their lives,” she said, “but there’s a lot of important events coming up that we’re all really excited about.”
Any money left over from the senior prom will be used toward the cost of caps and gowns.