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Prom will be held at MAHS for first time since 1966

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 5/2/18

You really can’t fault Middletown Area High School principal Michael Carnes for not knowing when was the last time the prom was held at the high school.

“I couldn’t tell you …

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Prom will be held at MAHS for first time since 1966

Ivy Martnishn and Chris Plummer get ready to enter the Middletown prom on Saturday, May 20, 2017, at the Red Lion Hotel Harrisburg Hershey. The prom will move to Middletown Area High School this year.
Ivy Martnishn and Chris Plummer get ready to enter the Middletown prom on Saturday, May 20, 2017, at the Red Lion Hotel Harrisburg Hershey. The prom will move to Middletown Area High School this year.
special to the press & journal by jodi ocker
Posted

You really can’t fault Middletown Area High School principal Michael Carnes for not knowing when was the last time the prom was held at the high school.

“I couldn’t tell you that,” Carnes said, even though he graduated as a Blue Raider in the early 1990s and remembers going to the prom at the former Embers Convention Center near Carlisle.

It could be because the last time the prom was held at the high school was a long time before that — back to 1966. Man hadn’t even orbited the moon yet, let alone plant a flag on it.

But come Saturday, May 19, for the first time in 52 years, the prom is coming back to the high school.

And it sounds like it is going to be special. Plans call for the young couples to step out of their rides onto a red carpet leading to the school entrance, where they will be photographed as they make their way into the building.

“We are trying to entice some of our staff members to serve as valets” so students don’t have to worry about parking, Carnes said.

Inside, what the students know as the high school cafeteria will be “totally transformed” to look anything but, done up with lighting and decorating by professional firms. A lounge area will be set up with couches where students can hang out between dances, or they can stroll outside into the courtyard.

And it’s all going to cost students a lot less than what they have been paying to go to the prom in recent years, Carnes said.

For all these years, starting in 1967 when the prom was first moved from the old high school (which was torn down in 2016) to Blue Ridge Country Club, the prom has been held in various off-site venues, usually a hotel. The 2017 prom was held at the Red Lion Hotel Harrisburg Hershey.

Discussions leading toward bringing the prom back to the high school started with class advisers a few years ago, mostly over concerns that prom tickets were becoming too expensive for students.

The district would sign a three-year contract for one of these venues, Carnes said. The contract locked the district in to a specific date for when the prom would be held each year, and also establish a minimum amount for how much money had to be paid to the venue in ticket sales.

Bigger high schools that hold their prom off-campus don’t have much of a problem meeting this minimum, because ticket sales are spread over a much larger group of students, Carnes said.

But in Middletown where the classes are smaller, prom ticket prices had been going up to unaffordable levels.

“We almost had to cancel the prom” one recent year before students moved into the new high school in 2016, Carnes said. “We had to extend ticket sales and we made our number.”

With prom tickets hitting $80 per student in 2017, Carnes  working with the class advisers decided this would be the year to make the change. They talked about it with the students, most of whom said nothing about changing the venue.

Bringing the prom in house has allowed the school to cut ticket prices from $80 to $60 — $40 in savings for a couple going to the prom, Carnes said.

“$40 is probably the flowers,” he said.

The high school aims to sell 150 to 200 tickets for each prom.

At last count, Carnes said more than 180 high school students have bought tickets to go to the prom this year, which is more than last year.

“We got the numbers. Numbers talk,” he said.

The high school has 167 seniors and 142 juniors, for a total of 309 students eligible to go to the prom.

Besides ticket cost, Carnes said another reason for the increased sales is “a much more robust” — meaning more variety — food menu being offered to students for this year’s prom.

Moving the prom into its own home means there is no price for the venue, and the school has more control over costs related to the event in general, such as catering.

Holding the prom off-campus, the hotel or venue charged a minimum amount of money for catering, regardless of how many students attended.

This year, the caterer will be paid on a “per head” basis, meaning “if 120 kids or people come that’s what we pay. If 200 come, that’s what we pay,” Carnes said.

The rising cost of prom tickets was the impetus for the move, but the money became almost secondary as the school realized so many other benefits of making the change.

“Now we control the date, we can have the prom whenever we want. We can decorate it how we want to decorate it,” Carnes said.

The school has more control when it comes to providing a secure prom environment for the students.

One recent year, two intoxicated adults tried to get into the prom because as a hotel it was a public venue, Carnes said, adding “we don’t have to deal with that here.”

If students need a breath of fresh air, instead of leaving the venue and not being able to get back in — as in past years — this year the school can just open up the secure outdoor courtyard that is part of the high school property, Carnes said.

With all these advantages, why has it taken this long to move the prom back into the high school?

It helps to have a state-of-the-art new $41 million high school that opened less than two years ago.

“It would have been very hard I think in the old building to transform it like we are going to. When you look at this space and the way it was designed from an architectural perspective, it’s pretty nice,” Carnes said. “This is a beautiful building that has been provided to our kids. We should utilize it as much as we can, and believe me we have been. This is just another way that we can show that we can utilize the space.”

There are some up-front costs to the school because this will be the first time the prom has been held here.

For example, the school district purchased covers with bows on them for all the chairs in the cafeteria, and special linens to cover all the tables.

But these items can be reused for future proms and for other special events at the school, Carnes said. The district also received donations from the Blue and Gold Club and the American Legion to help cover the cost of these amenities. The Alumni Association may have chipped in as well, Carnes said.

It’s too soon to tell for certain if the prom will stay at the high school, until after the event is held and it is clear how things turned out.

“If for some unforeseen reason things don’t work then we will go back to the way things were, but we are pretty sure it’s going to be nice,” Carnes said. “We are trying to make it special. I think it’s a calculated risk. I just tell people, give it a chance. Let’s see.”