SANDY SPRING, Md. (WJLA) - Senior prom is always a big event, but one Montgomery County high school greatly underestimated the number of students interested in going.
Last year, Sherwood High School's then-junior class selected the National Aquarium in Baltimore to host prom 2014. The popular tourist attraction said it could accommodate up to 450 students. At the time, that figure sounded more than safe, as the Sandy Spring school typically attracts fewer than 400 prom attendees.
So it came by surprise this month when 550 teenagers shelled out $95 each, for tickets to the signature event. Last Friday during lunch, the prom planning committee broke the news to the student body --- due to capacity concerns, 100 seniors would be kept from taking part in prom.
"It's something I won't get to tell my kids about," senior Michael Sky Geary remarked. "I won't be able to see my friends. I mean they'll be posting on Facebook, and I'll be kind of jealous."
For Geary, it was a teenage nightmare. The 17-year-old, with a part-time job at Hollister, had already dropped $150 on a tuxedo rental, and another $85 on a limo he was splitting with seven other classmates. For girls like senior Karleigh Price, it was even worse --- she spent $375 on a "dream dress" it looked like she’d never wear.
"That's $300 right down the drain. I mean how awful is that? You have this dress, and you can't even wear it," Geary added.
In the days since, students have spent a lot of time speculating as to why attendance spiked so dramatically. Some cite a larger than normal senior class, nearly 500 students in total, many of whom are dating underclassmen or students from other area schools. However, others believe the nifty Charm City venue, an aquatic oasis full of fish and mammals, bumped student participation.
"Whatever the cause, it's just a messed-up situation. There were no warnings --- he went in line to pay for his ticket and they said, 'sorry, no more tickets,'" Geary's father Michael Geary said.
Geary, like many other parents, emailed and called school leaders to vocalize their concerns, but no promises were made.
"The big problem is the stress and the utter disappointment of being so prepared to go to your senior prom, and then to learn you're shut out," the elder Geary added.
Following an article in the Gazette Newspaper Wednesday, and phone calls from ABC7, Sherwood High School principal William Gregory made an about face Thursday.
"When we learned that tickets were sold out on Friday, my sponsor began working with the caterer and the venue to see if we could accommodate those students who were in line and unable to get the tickets. This morning, I heard from my School Business Administrator that they were successful in increasing the capacity to accommodate these students. Those students will be able to go to prom," Gregory stated.
"I thought how weird it was that so many seniors weren't going to be able to go to their own prom," the younger Geary stated. "The school probably didn't intend for this to happen, but it could have been avoided."