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Emporia High School juniors and seniors will have a somewhat unconventional prom this year, thanks to the efforts of two very determined teachers.

Tonya Dall, a special education teacher, and Kaitlyn Just, a language arts teacher, were were given the OK to plan a prom, but it will not look like the traditional prom students are used to.

“We were very, very determined to have something for them, but we cannot promise that it would be their normal, traditional prom like they all expected,” Dall said. “We were going to make sure that they have something because, if you think about it and reflect back to last year, our seniors this year would have graduated high school without having a prom if we did not fight for something. And that is a special memory that everyone should have when they are in high school.”

Just and Dall talked ideas on what they could do for prom before presenting their plan to EHS Assistant Principal Trevor Mathews. Mathews then presented the idea to Principal Dathan Fischer.

Some suggestions Dall and Just received were a carnival or a show of some kind. Dall said that they were not thrilled with the idea of throwing a carnival-type prom because they wanted to give the students the opportunity to take pictures in their formal wear.

Instead, the pair came up with another idea: a murder mystery dinner theatre with an enchanted garden theme. The junior class picked the theme at the beginning of the school year because it is an easy and relaxing theme that would be easy to adapt if further restrictions occurred.

“We explored our options with that and we are doing a dinner for the kids this year,” Dall said. “We are having a pasta dinner and dessert catered for the juniors and seniors that attend. We have hired the KC Improv Company from Kansas City and they are going to come in and do a prom-themed murder mystery.”

To limit contact, chaperones will be serving the students’ food buffet-style to avoid contamination.

There will be live performances by orchestra teacher Riley Day, instructional coach Jeanna Scheve and junior Hayden Knuth. Dall has contacted additional local musicians to perform, but she is waiting on the final word.

The performances will happen during the social hour prior to the dinner and murder mystery beginning. Masks and social distancing will be required, and students will have to preregister for prom and sign up for a table.

“If they want to sit with a particular group of friends, then that group needs to come sign up together and get on the same table,” she said.

A big change from a traditional prom is there will be no dance this year and students will not be permitted to roam around in the area to ensure social distancing is followed as much as possible. Prom will also be moved from Emporia State, where it is normally held, to 5 - 9 p.m. Saturday, May 1 at the William Allen White Auditorium.

“We worked with our students to make sure that we came up with something that they would enjoy and I know some are very disappointed we are not having a dance,” Dall said. “But we are really going out there and doing our best. We have worked non-stop to find what we can do to at least make up for not having that dance for them. I would like to thank the Hopkins Foundation because without the Hopkins Foundation and their donation to help us bring in the entertainment, we would have really been struggling to find something that would have been memorable for these students.”

Prom will still continue the senior awards tradition. Dall shared that glass pieces made by art instructor Grant Charpentier will be used as the awards for the seniors.

“We are also looking for community donations and we have some parents working on getting us some community donations that we can just use as prizes for any junior or senior that is not in attendance at our prom that evening,” she said.

Those wishing to donate can reach out to Dall at tonya.dall@usd253.net.

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