Emma Berardi is a freshman at Warhill High School. Excited for their first high school dance, Berardi said she and her friends planned to attend homecoming as a group.
However, Emma won’t be there.
For the first two days of ticket sales, she said there was no announcement ticket sales were going on. After she realized they were, she waited in line to purchase a ticket to the dance two days in a row.
Both times she walked away empty handed.
“It just felt very unfair,” Emma said.
Emma was one of almost 900 students excluded from the dance because, despite having a population of 1,392 students, Warhill only planned to sell 500 tickets to the homecoming dance.
Warhill’s faculty and administration removed the cap on the number of tickets available to students and adjusted the dance’s date after student and parent backlash.
Emma said during the original ticket sales, other students were given an unfair advantage. Lunch breaks at Warhill are split into three blocks, first, second and third. While the first block was allowed to buy tickets for the whole lunch period, Emma said they stopped sales in the middle of the second lunch block.
“(Students) were not allowed to buy tickets to save some for third lunch, so it would be kind of fair, but it’s not (fair) because … everyone got to buy at first lunch,” Emma said.
The 500 student limit was not chosen out of the blue. Christie Scott, a Williamsburg-James City County Schools spokeswoman, said this year’s ticket numbers were based on previous years’ attendance as well as appropriate capacity for safety.
“(Warhill High School) originally allocated a number of tickets based on attendance at last year’s homecoming dance,” Scott said. “That number was increased when student interest increased and (Warhill’s) administrators confirmed that attendance would remain within acceptable capacity for safety.”
While attendance numbers were not available, Scott said 500 tickets were made available for sale last year as well.
Scott said while the location of the dance remains the same, there is no longer a cap on ticket numbers
“School administrators spoke with county authorities to address concerns about capacity and made additional tickets available,” Scott said. “At this time, we do not anticipate that any student who wants to buy a ticket to the dance would not be able to get one. Although there is not a cap for ticket sales, school leaders do need to be mindful of safety and crowd security in the commons area.”
In addition to the ticket shortage, the dance was rescheduled twice because of Tropical Storm Michael. The original rescheduled date conflicted with the theater department, which would have been in Norfolk for the Virginia Theater Association’s state competition.
Charlotte Konitzer, the mother of two Warhill students, said the 36 theatre students, four of whom are on the homecoming court, would not have been able to attend. Konitzer and another mother sent several emails to the school and eventually met with Warhill’s principal, Jeffrey Carroll, to voice their concerns.
A few days later Konitzer was contacted by Carroll and told the high school had moved their homecoming dance to Nov. 10, a week after the school’s homecoming football game.
Scott said the makeup date was chosen to provide as many students as possible an opportunity to participate.
“Warhill High School principal Jeff Carroll and his team met with students, teachers and parents to determine a plan that would meet the needs of the entire Warhill School Community,” Scott said.
Scott said in addition to efforts to improve this year, Carroll is working with the Student Council Association advisor and officers to improve the homecoming planning process before next year’s dance.
“I feel (Warhill administration) really did try to work with the parents and the students,” Konitzer said.
Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.