In-person prom was an absolute no-go for New Jersey high schools in 2020 due to the threat of COVID-19.

The health threat remains, but high schools in the Garden State are making moves to ensure prom does occur for their older students in 2021, even if it's not a traditional celebration.

"Not everybody's doing junior prom, it's mostly senior proms this year," said Antoinette Raucci, owner of the dress shop Antoinette Rose in Brick and Belmar.

Raucci keeps her own list of which schools are hosting proms, and when. Prom-buying season is a little delayed this year, she noted — January is typically one of the biggest months for selling prom dresses at her boutiques.

"The prom bids — some of them didn't even come out until last week," Raucci said.

Gov. Phil Murphy has said during coronavirus briefings that guidance for proms and graduations is on the way, and that capacity for gatherings would likely be expanded in time for prom season.

In the meantime, schools need to move ahead with booking venues or renting tents and tables before it's too late. And they're making their own rules related to COVID-19, which can be tweaked once Murphy lays out specific guidelines.

"Obviously, students from other schools can't be attending," said Thomas Farrell, superintendent of schools for the Brick Township Public School District.

Seniors at both of the district's high schools will have outdoor proms at offsite venues, Farrell said.

"This senior class lost out on a lot last year," he said.

A prom ban on non-students is not an automatic across the state. Middletown High School North has informed students that the junior and senior proms in late May will permit guests from other grade levels and/or schools. As of now, a traditional dance floor will not be provided.

The school is holding its events on campus so it can maximize enforcement of social distancing and safety guidelines. Masks will be required to be worn by all participants when they're not eating or drinking, and temperatures will be taken at the main entrance.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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