By Margie Wuebker
MINSTER -- Plans for this year's Minster High School prom have struck a discordant note with juniors and seniors, even though administrators believe the changes will afford greater safety for students and their dates.
A mandatory dinner will precede the April 29 dance for the first time, meaning students will be on school property for a longer period of time allowing their conduct to be monitored. A promenade has been scrapped after an overwhelmingly negative vote.
The dinner and dance arrangement has been embraced by a number of Mercer County schools, including Celina, Coldwater, St. Henry, Marion Local and Fort Recovery. No information was available from the New Bremen and St. Marys districts.
"We would be remiss, and it would be a dereliction of responsibility to say we do not care," Superintendent Gayl Ray told students in attendance at Monday night's board of education work session. "We need to keep school-supported activities as safe as possible."
Ray referred to "a sad state of affairs," noting some students showed up intoxicated in past years. "After graduation you can engage in activities over which we have no control," Ray added. "While you are enrolled here, our goal is to keep you safe and free from harmful substances."
Senior class president Laura Morrissey and junior class president Chrissy Quinter expressed concern about the administration controlling students and having the final say on the prom.
"We have a motto 'A Tradition of Excellence,' " Quinter said. "Why not keep it?"
Morrissey added, "The prom is supposed to be about students and the main issue here is an attempt to control drinking. A large percentage of students are being forced to do this (attend dinner prior to the dance), and we don't deserve to be victimized."
It was noted other school districts, including neighboring Fort Loramie, have gone to Friday night proms in an effort to control drinking. The Shelby County school also has implemented a wedding-style dinner on prom night and banned the use of limousines and party buses due to prevalence of alcohol being consumed en route.
"Bus and limousine drivers are not concerned with what goes on in the backseat," Ray said. "Their primary concern is about any damage that may be done to the interior."
Teacher Tad Colbeck, who shares junior class adviser duties with Tim Jay, indicated the cost of the mandatory meal would place an added burden on the class, which hosts the event. Colbeck noted the class treasury has been impacted by the increased cost of candy and other concession stand supplies as well as a decrease in sales.
The prom has cost $4,000 to $5,000 in past years when students traditionally enjoyed dinner at private homes or traveled to restaurants before the dance. Jay pointed out the planned dinner -- be it casual, semiformal or formal -- and the band have a combined tab of $3,260. Students fear the addition of dinner will greatly impact the money available for decorations, which one visitor described as being the difference between a memorable occasion and an ordinary dance.
Another visitor suggested a Breathalyzer be brought in and all students be required to "blow" before gaining admittance to the prom. She felt this might be more acceptable than a pre-dance meal.
"At least one other area school has a dinner, a dance and the Breathalyzer," board member Carol Ranly said. "And they still worry about alcohol."
Other school districts, including Parkway, have centralized prom and after-prom activities at the same location. Fort Recovery has instituted a buddy system, where juniors and seniors paired with younger students promise to remain alcohol free.
Fellow board member Dale Sherman admitted "change is tough" and encouraged students to keep an open mind about the new prom schedule. He also suggested students be surveyed following the event for their input.
Ray thanked the nearly two dozen students in attendance before adding, "We want everybody to have a good time. The longer we have you, the safer you will be. Everyone will be in one piece and your parents can embrace you."