Winter Formal remains in the balance


Grace Peters

Seniors Grace Peters and Riley Harper try on dresses with their friend, Brooke Slis, on Saturday, Feb. 6.

Caroline Scott, Staff Writer

Freshman Nicole Riopelle takes a few moments to admire her red velvet Lucy in the Sky dress. She can’t wait to wear it to her first high school dance on Feb. 26—if the dance happens at all.

The winter formal, originally scheduled for Jan. 29, was rescheduled due to rising COVID-19 cases. Now it is expected to take place for students in grades 9-12 at the Melbourne Auditorium from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. 

“I’d be very upset [if the dance got canceled],” Riopelle said. “It’s been postponed so much. So many other schools have had their dances. A lot of my friends were talking about theirs at swim practice, and I’m still waiting for mine.”

According to Principal Rick Fleming, the formal could face cancellation if the number of COVID-19 cases doesn’t decrease. As of the week of Jan. 21, 506 students in Brevard County schools had a positive test for COVID-19.

“Because it’s so late in the year and our prom is scheduled for April 1, I don’t think we would reschedule another dance,” Fleming said. “[Administration] would pray at that point that we will be able to hold our promise.”

Senior and Student Government Association president, Lily Winsten, said she wouldn’t be surprised if the dance doesn’t happen following two date changes.

“I think it’s honestly kind of inevitable, but it would be really annoying because [SGA] put a lot of work into it,” Winsten said.

According to Winsten, the dance raises COVID-19 concerns.

“I’m a little worried that it’s going to become a super-spreader,” Winsten said, “but I don’t know how many precautions we can put in place.”

Masks will not be required, and the school will not check for vaccination status. Once a student has entered the formal, they cannot leave unless they are leaving for the night. 

“We don’t have a whole lot of mitigation strategies planned for the dance,” Fleming said. “At any dance, it’s very difficult when you’re face to face. Hopefully, if we’re allowed to do it, we’ll be comfortable enough with the cases down. Some parents may be very comfortable allowing their students to go, and some parents may be uncomfortable. It’s a choice.”

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, students from other schools cannot attend. According to Winsten, the restriction could throw off the dance’s dynamic.

“I feel like it helps when there are other people,” she said. “It’s like a buffer because otherwise, you’re just with all your classmates. But I still think it’ll be a good time.”

Winsten has not had the opportunity to attend a school dance since the homecoming of 2019.

“[SGA is] a little worried that it’s going to get rowdy just because it’s the first dance that the high schools had in a couple of years,” Winsten said. “It’s my last homecoming, so I think it’ll just be really fun to view my friends one last time in this setting.”

Riopelle said she doesn’t regret the absence of dances when she was in middle school.

“I feel like it’s actually good that I missed out on a couple of those because those weren’t really the real things, like Prom and formals,” Riopelle said. “I’m glad I got it over with back then.”

According to Riopelle, the formal would provide relief for students.

“I think we really need it because school’s been very hectic for the last couple years,” she said. “Everybody just needs something to look forward to.”

Fleming said the dance would be rewarding for administration as well.

“You guys sometimes think we’re just there and we stand around,” Fleming said. “We really enjoy seeing you guys dressed up. We enjoy the camaraderie with our colleagues as well. It’s a fun interactive event for us along with the students, and we really enjoy seeing you guys have a good time. It’s important for me to make sure that I’m doing everything in my power to facilitate the dance and make sure it happens.”