Coronavirus

Machebeuf Prom Created Special Memories: Positive COVID Cases

Bishop Machebeuf High School is located at 458 Unita Street.
Bishop Machebeuf High School is located at 458 Unita Street. Archdiocese of Denver
When she's chaperoned dances at Catholic schools, Cynthia Storer's been told to make sure the kids "leave room for Jesus" — but at Bishop Machebeuf High School's prom last month, room apparently was not left for Jesus or social distancing. Because now Storer's son has the virus, and the school's on Colorado's COVID-19 outbreak list.

Four COVID cases have been confirmed at the private Catholic high school in Denver, which was added to the state's list of outbreak sites on May 5. Storer's son, junior Pete Wachholz, and one of his friends account for two of those cases, with both students testing positive for COVID-19 just days after attending the April 24 prom.

"There was a mosh pit where all the students were dancing without masks," Storer says. "They were dancing with no social distancing whatsoever, and zero enforcement went into it. The chaperones let this happen."
click to enlarge Pete Wachholz and Araceli Sanchez at the BMHS prom. - COURTESY OF CYNTHIA STORER
Pete Wachholz and Araceli Sanchez at the BMHS prom.
Courtesy of Cynthia Storer

But the school hasn't owned up to its failure to enforce guidelines, she says, pointing to an email Machebeuf sent to parents on April 30 that reads: "A few positive COVID cases have been identified at BMHS and students who must quarantine have been given instructions. Information about the status of the Covid Virus at BMHS was submitted by Bishop Machebeuf staff to the Denver Department of Health and Environment and the school is in compliance with department guidelines."

The email, written by Tony Bonta, the school's president, makes no mention of where and when the students in question contracted the virus. Instead, it offers this: "I give thanks to so many people for a successful Prom and After-Prom, and Senior Retreat! God is so good to us!"

Recalls Storer, "I wrote him back, 'A successful prom? There was a mosh pit with zero CDC guidelines followed.' He didn't even respond. There was zero responsibility taken by the school."

Bishop Machebeuf staffers have not responded to requests for comment on this story, either.

The outbreak at BMHS is one of 58 confirmed at Colorado K-12 schools last week — a record number of school-based outbreaks for a single week, according to state data. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is currently investigating 859 outbreaks, 251 of which occurred at K-12 schools.

"I'm hoping people will understand for proms coming up that these children need to be supervised," Storer says. "What I want students to know is that they are not invincible. They need to be aware that these mass gatherings are dangerous still."
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Casey Van Divier grew up in Colorado and graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder. She now works as a Denver area journalist covering local news, politics and the arts.
Contact: Casey Van Divier