L.D. Bell High School seniors pose for a photo at their prom on Saturday, April 24, 2021, at Pennington Field in Bedford. (Courtesy photo)

A group of Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD seniors wasn’t about to lose its prom to the pandemic for a second straight year.

The seniors came up with a plan: Hold one of the most memorable high school events at Pennington Field, the district’s largest football stadium and a place to which students had an established connection. Districts administrators agreed, and L.D. Bell High School had its prom this past Saturday. The district’s other high school, Trinity High School, will hold its prom Saturday.

“I think everybody had a really good time,” said Gabriela Royer, the senior class president at L.D. Bell High School who helped organize this year’s unique prom. “People came up to me during prom and said this is so much fun. I think it took people by surprise because it was different, but people ended up really, really enjoying it. It was prom — just outside.”

High school seniors across Tarrant County are gearing up for their proms, many of which will be the first time districts will hold the event since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Last year, most districts scuttled plans for the end-of-year dance.

The 21 high schools in Fort Worth ISD are set to begin holding prom May 15, district spokesman Clint Bond said. Students will be required to follow Fort Worth ISD’s coronavirus protocols, including wearing a mask.

Bond said high schools sought input from students and principals to decide how to plan for prom.

Castleberry High School will hold its prom on May 8. Castleberry ISD Superintendent John Ramos said seniors will gather at a reception room in the Stockyards and wear a mask as they enjoy their big night.

“We will be following the most current (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines. We’ll also be checking temperatures. We’ll have hand sanitation stations as well,” Ramos said. “Also, we will be following any regulations that the venue has and we are expected to get the most up-to-date (regulations) the week of prom, so we’re certainly going to do our part to make sure that everybody has a safe and enjoyable prom.”

The current environment is vastly different than the one administrators found themselves in this time last year. It made sense to hold prom now that the district is asking students to have classes in person, Ramos said. Plus, he added, they know how to properly mitigate the chance of exposure to the virus now than they did at this time last year.

“Kids have been in face-to-face instruction since the second six weeks of school. Our COVID cases have continually gone down,” Ramos said. “We also felt that if kids were being asked to come to school, there would be some certain things that we could do to help them try to make that school year as enjoyable and as safe as possible.”

The CDC has found that in-person learning has not been associated with substantial community transmission — as long as certain protocols, such as social distancing and masking, are in place. 

Last week, Castleberry ISD had a single COVID-19 case among its high school students — a remote learner. The district, located in North Fort Worth, has about 3,600 students.

“We’ve had tremendous success in keeping everybody safe and healthy,” Ramos said. “We certainly feel that if we continue to do all the right things we have implemented since the return to school, we minimize those opportunities for someone not to walk out safe and healthy.”

Currently, Fort Worth ISD has three active cases among its 21 high schools. More than 84,000 students are enrolled in Fort Worth ISD.

Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD, which has about 22,500 students, reported last week having 15 active coronavirus infections among its students.

L.D. Bell High School seniors chat at Pennington Field during their prom on Saturday, April 24, 2021, in Bedford. (Courtesy photo)

Gabriela, the 17-year-old who attends L.D. Bell High School in HEB ISD, stressed that students followed proper COVID-19 safety guidelines while they enjoyed prom last weekend.

She said it was a meaningful event to have — more so after having to deal with the pandemic for the past two school years.

“I think prom is important to every senior because it symbolizes the big bang at the end of the year, something to end it off and commemorate all of our hard work,” Gabriella said. “I know, especially this year, we have worked harder than we have worked before and prom is a great way to celebrate that and look back on all the successes that we had this year.”

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter.

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Jacob Sanchez

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University.

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