Mt. Hope High School juniors planning to attend prom can go ahead and schedule their hair and nail appointments for early afternoon, thanks to an early dismissal that day.
For most of them, anyway.
The Bristol Warren Regional School Committee approved allowing juniors attending prom to skip last period and leave class after lunch to prepare for the big dance. The split committee approved making the change to the student handbook 5-3. The procedure applies only to juniors going to prom, not their dates who may be in other grades.
Students who are chronically late or who find themselves in trouble with the school in weeks leading up to prom will also be excluded from early dismissal. Students can not have more than one unexcused absence or more than 10 days being late throughout the school year to qualify. They also can not be suspended or find themselves on “social suspension” — which prohibits students from attending school functions like prom. Social suspension lasts much longer than traditional suspension. If a student is suspended for five days, he may be subject to five weeks of social suspension, according to Principal Donald Rebello.
Superintendent Mario Andrade voiced support for the procedure change, seeing it as a successful way to encourage students to take school seriously. He credited the trial early dismissal with reducing tardiness among students, noting only one student who left early had been late to school more than twice.
“Too often we bring attention to the negative — it’s punitive, punitive, punitive,” Dr. Andrade told the committee. “This is a way to recognize those students making the right choce. We see this as a good carrot to get kids to school on time.”
Not all committee members agreed.
“As a junior in high school, you should be in school full-time instead of going to the hairdresser or manicurist,” said committee member Marjorie McBride. “As a student, we expect you to be a student.”
Others noted that students wouldn’t be missing a lot of class time and likely wouldn’t have their minds fully on their studies that day anyway.
“If they’re in class and doing what they’re supposed to do, a couple of hours is no big deal,” committee member Karen Lynch said.
The School Committee approved allowing juniors to leave school before last period for last May’s junior prom on a trial basis after students requested the privilege. The students brought the request to the School Improvement Team and the high school administration, which endorsed the move.
“From a girl’s point of view, by the time you get out of the parking lot, and people who live in Warren get home by 3, or 3:30, (prom preparations) are more rushed than it should be,” student Morgan Chaves told the school committee at the time.