Still no word on the prom

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With the prom coming up in 10 weeks, there is still no word whether Mt. Hope High School seniors will be allowed to leave school early on the big day.

Students lobbied the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee for a policy change earlier this winter, saying they needed more time off in the afternoon to prepare for the dance.

The expectation at the time was that students were going to talk to Mt. Hope’s administration before reporting back, but that hasn’t happened yet, committee members said Wednesday evening. They’re due to meet with the school improvement team on xx, March 18.

Until then, policy and curriculum subcommittee chairman Bill O’Dell said he feels uncomfortable giving his opinion on the matter one way or another.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to give opinions until we hear from the administration at the high school,” he said during a meeting of the subcommittee Wednesday evening.

Not all were as guarded. Subcommittee member Lynn Wainwright said she’s all for it, at least for now:

“I would like to try it out on a trial basis,” she said.

Since 2007, students have been required to stay until the end of their fifth period at 1:37 p.m. to receive full credit for the day. Ms. Wainwright said she is in favor of letting students in good standing leave at lunch, thereby missing that fifth period.

“I would like those students who have Cs or better to be able to leave at lunch,” she said. “This is the day of prom, this is a big deal. How much work is going to get done (after lunch), realistically?”

Apart from that, she said, there is an issue of fairness. She said letting students leave for the prom one time is not much different than allowing athletes to leave school early so they can get to afternoon meets.

“We do it for them,” she said.

Students who lobbied the district two months ago said they desperately need the time off. With everything they need to do to get ready for the dance, there’s not enough time.

“From a girl’s point of view, by the time you get out of the senior 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 earlier this year.

Ms. Wainwright said that in an ideal world, proms would be held on Saturday. But since it’s harder to reserve venues for Saturdays than for Fridays, students said they don’t see that changing.

“A Saturday night is hard to snag because they’re not making money off of us,” senior class president Ross Hogan told the school committee earlier this year. The venues “would rather book a $40,000 wedding, and serve alcohol.”

Mr. O’Dell said the subcommittee would review the situation again after students meet with administrators next week, and then come up with a plan of action to recommend to the full school committee.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.