FREEPORT — The new coronavirus may have a tight grip on the entire country, but it couldn't stop the tradition of prom draw at Aquin High School.

One of the oldest and most cherished traditions at the school got a new twist this year as students gathered online to draw the name of the person they'll take to the dance.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the closure of all schools in the state through the end of the month as part of Gov. JB Pritzker's shelter-in-place order. Holding the drawing online allowed students to continue the tradition that dates back almost 100 years to when Aquin opened.

All prom attendees and some staff members gathered Tuesday night safely apart on the Zoom group meetings app to do a version of the prom drawing never experienced before.

Aquin's prom is scheduled for May 1, but that's just one day after the shelter-in-place order expires. So, the dance has been postponed to a date to be determined. But students didn't want to miss out on the experience of the draw, and they want to be able to make arrangements with their date for whenever the dance is rescheduled.

On Tuesday, instead of the boys as usual gathering in the school library to pick a girl's name, they instead used the internet. At 5 p.m., boys only linked up on Zoom and watched with great anticipation as teacher Leonard Friedhof drew their date's name and then announced it to all involved.

There was a 90-minute break before the girls were brought in to give the boys some time to think of a creative way to ask his date to the prom.

Now at Aquin, the process to ask the girl to prom has become more intricate than many musicians' choreographed videos and dance routines. It often involves large groups of guys performing an entire skit. But since rules prohibit any of them from being together, that meant guys had to get creative in a short time. One guy went to the trouble of putting a background in his screen view that resembled a candlelit dinner on the beach and even donned a suit coat to look classy while asking.

At 6:30 p.m., Aquin teacher Tracie Dohms brought the girls into the mix and all 50 of the prom attendees from the junior and senior classes plus three sophomores, along with the staff members, were connected with Zoom in a mega-Brady Bunch-like screen of faces. Then, one by one, the guys asked the girls to the prom and, of course, they all said yes. Despite the fact they all were separated, it did not diminish the excitement. There were plenty of cheers and whooping it up from those participating.

When they will attend the dance they have no idea, but at least they know who their date will be.

Just because they won't be going to the dance on May 1, that doesn't mean the Aquin students will have the day and night off. Whether together or separately, the prom attendees will be busy. May 1 is May Day which administrators reminded students is a day of doing good deeds for others.

Prom dates will brainstorm an act of kindness or mini service project to complete within the Freeport community. Those activities will have to abide by the social distancing rules and have no more than 10 people in a group. The plans will have to be approved by administrators, and then the students will take pictures and videos of their projects which will be posted through various Aquin social media accounts.

Again, the dance is not canceled. Administrators will wait and see what medical experts and Illinois state officials have to say when May 1 arrives before making any additional decisions.

Todd McKenna is a freelance correspondent.