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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Usually, school dances aren’t held in a parking lot during the afternoon.

Then again, these aren’t normal times during the COVID-19 health crisis.

JSerra Catholic High School senior students enjoyed a modified winter formal on Wednesday, Feb. 3, during their lunch break—a makeshift VIP area with black cloth tables and music. Students were encouraged to dress in formal wear.

JSerra’s Associated Student Government members Olivia McHenry, Julia Tanner, and Sarah Wadman said holding some sort of winter formal for students boosts school spirit. Photo: Collin Breaux.

The private school in San Juan Capistrano wasn’t able to hold a standard winter formal due to the pandemic, but the school’s Associated Student Government (ASG) group wanted to hold some sort of recognition for the Class of 2021.

Alexandria Rodriguez, 17, said she was surprised by the event. She chatted with friends at a table and eventually danced a bit before the bell rang to return to class.

“I’m just really happy that they gave us some sort of winter formal, because I was really looking forward to the school dance,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a bit disappointing (with the pandemic altering school events), but at the same time, it puts stuff into perspective, that it is a serious situation. It’s about adapting and being grateful for what we have, and the opportunities we’re able to glean from it.”

JSerra Catholic High School senior students danced during a winter formal in the school parking lot on Wednesday, Feb. 3. Photo: Collin Breaux.

The winter formal was the third day of JSerra’s Winter Formal Week, which also included a virtual pep rally and themed dress-up days. The pandemic has prohibited many of the usual rites of passages for school students—among them sports activities, in-person mass gatherings, and even just the usual daily school routine.

“It’s a good way to have the kids stay active in the school,” ASG member Julia Tanner said.

Not being able to have the usual winter formal was sad at first, because it was their last year of high school, but ASG has come up with “cool ways” for students to have fun, ASG member Olivia McHenry said.

Alexandria Rodriguez (right) was surprised by a modified winter formal event during her lunch period. Photo: Collin Breaux.

The modified Winter Formal Week events make JSerra unique, because a lot of other schools aren’t having those kinds of events, ASG member Sarah Wadman said.

Students are attending classes in person at JSerra during the pandemic, with safety guidelines in place. Students at public schools in Capistrano Unified School District are also allowed to learn on campus under the district’s hybrid model, which limits campus capacity and also allows students the option of virtual learning from home if they so choose.

Ryan Horio (right) was among numerous JSerra senior students who participated in a tweaked winter formal event on campus, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Collin Breaux.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at

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