POLAND — Trent Letourneau had fully intended to bring his girlfriend, Montana Lobb, to the Poland Regional High School prom Saturday night.
He bought their tickets and began to get ready for the big night.
“She was so excited to go to prom that she went all out,” said Darcy Pettengill Letourneau, Trent’s mom. “She found the dress, the shoes, the hair… everything. In fact, she’s still paying on the dress. She looks stunning. She feels stunning.”
The problem: in March, Lobb, 17, withdrew from classes at the high school to finish her schooling in the adult education program. That didn’t appear to be a problem for the young couple in any way — Trent, 18, had paid for prom tickets, after all, and he and Lobb had signed all the necessary contracts.
“When my son went back to the school to give them the signed contracts,” Darcy Letourneau said, “he was given his money back and told she wasn’t able to attend prom due to not being enrolled at PRHS.”
Officially, it comes down to this: since Lobb had left the high school to finish her classes in adult ed, the school system doesn’t consider her a student of the high school and thus, she cannot go to the prom.
Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t be an issue, according to RSU 16 Superintendent Kenneth Healey. As it is with so many things over the past year, the villain in this story is COVID-19.
The contract itself explains that nobody outside of the high school is allowed to go to the prom this year, Healy said. By allowing only high school students, he said, school officials are able to guarantee that everyone at the prom has been following the proper COVID-19 protocols for the past year.
The fact that Lobb is still going to school within the district isn’t a factor, Healey said, because the Adult Education program doesn’t follow the same protocols as the high school.
The Oxford Hills School District based in Paris is enforcing the same type of rules, Healey said. He said there are boys at the Poland high school who are dating girls at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris, and because of the COVID-19 rules at the two schools, they cannot bring their girlfriends to the prom. Likewise, the girls from Oxford Hills cannot invite their Poland boyfriends to the prom there, either.
It has to be this way, Healey said, if they want to have something close to a traditional prom.
“Everybody’s trying to have it as safe as we possibly can,” Healey said.
Darcy Letourneau is not altogether impressed by the explanation, however. School officials have no real way of knowing where students are when they’re not in class, she said, so contract tracing is never going to be perfect.
The fact that Lobb has been out of the high school for two months shouldn’t exempt her from the prom, she said, especially considering that both teens have had their COVID-19 vaccine shots.
“It’s ludicrous,” Darcy said. “Life is hard enough for (these) kids, so this is absurd.”
How do other school systems handle these types of situations?
Jake Langlais is superintendent of Lewiston schools. When he was principal of the high school, he said, “we took these cases one at a time. Each story is unique, always has some passion, and life implications that need to be considered.”
At Edward Little High School in Auburn, officials are likewise more flexible about the rules, although in the age of COVID-19, they do take precautions.
“We allow our day students to invite one guest, if they choose,” said Edward Little Principal Scott Annear. “We do a guest form and contact the appropriate parties to see if this is a student ‘in good standing’ and would not be a behavior risk. This year we are checking to verify that they are not in quarantine, too. We allow our juniors and seniors to invite the guest that has been vetted and age 20 or younger. In the past, some of our students have invited a student that is enrolled in adult ed. Those that are vetted and age 20 or younger, we have allowed.”
According to Darcy Letourneau, her son and his girlfriend have resigned themselves to missing the prom. It’s extra aggravating, Darcy said, considering how much the kids have had to endure over the past year of difficulties brought on by COVID-19.
And Lobb, she said, has been working extra hard to overcome personal difficulties, including anxiety.
“These things made her attending public school difficult,” Darcy said. “Once COVID hit, remote learning was not something she had an easy time with. In March of this year, she made the courageous and informed decision to withdraw from Poland Regional High School and attend RSU 16 Adult Education. In the short amount of time that she has been there, she has excelled. She’s been to school daily, she is more focused and is a lot happier. She is actually on track to graduate early.”
The prom, Darcy said, was an event Lobb had been eagerly anticipating; a reward of sorts for a year of hard work.
“She just wanted to feel like a star for one night,” Darcy said.
What will the kids do Saturday night while all of their friends and classmates are living it up at the prom?
“My family and I are probably going to send them to a nice dinner all dressed up one night,” Darcy said.
The couple have been together more than a year.