Tara Cleckley knew that she had to throw an unforgettable prom for her students but that she had to do it on a budget.
The junior dues that pay for the dance were low this year, and the Butler High School prom fund didn't have the $2,000 to rent an off-campus venue.
Then she realized the solution was right at home.
To save money and show off the school, Butler High held the prom in its newly renovated gym April 16. It was the first time the school gym had held a prom in more than 10 years.
Cleckley, the prom director and junior class representative, said that although the idea was met with groans at first, skeptics had a change of heart when they saw the gym's transformation.
"We just felt there was no need to go off and spend money that was going to cost us to have prom at another place when we have a perfectly good place here," she said.
Students and faculty members hid the basketball court with tarps, raised party tents in front of the hoops, set up a beverage fountain at the entrance and covered tables with centerpieces and tablecloths.
"It was absolutely beautiful," Cleckley said. "Despite all of those naysayers, after having come back from prom it was just the buzz at the school."
As a member of the Butler prom committee, junior Ariana Haynes said, she had to do some persuading to make students stay on campus for prom.
"At first, everyone, they were real skeptical," Ariana said. "They were like, 'What? Prom is in the gym this year? Oh, no. I'm not going to go.' "
In the end, more than 200 students attended the prom in a gym that Ariana said looked more like a palace.
This year was the third time Cross Creek High School juniors threw a prom for their school on campus.
Students decorated the cafeteria and turned it into a black tie-theme party, according to prom adviser Amanda Glover.
Glover estimated holding the prom where students eat their lunch every day rather than a party site saved about $4,000.
"Everywhere is going up on prices, and some places are picky about which caterers you can use," she said. "When we have it at the school, we are able to do whatever we want."
Evans High School's prom last weekend was at the school for the third straight year, too. The first year, Principal Don Brigdon said, there was some resistance from students wondering why they couldn't have it at a different place, as previous classes had done. When they set foot in the decorated school commons, however, their opinions quickly changed.
"They could not believe the transition," Brigdon said. "It didn't look like a school. We always do a great job decorating every year to make it not look like a school, but the commons area looked like a huge ballroom -- the lights, food, even our bathrooms, we put in air freshener and cologne for them to freshen up like you see in those nice hotels."
Evans' primary reasons for holding its own prom were control and security, but being able to charge students less also was appealing.
"It's not as stressful an event when we have it here at school," the principal said. "It's just not. There seems to be plenty of everything, parking. We're responsible for everything. If something goes wrong, we're there to take care of it."
Not much changed in the prom schedule at Hephzibah High School, however.
Prom Director Lori Hoover said her committee did not have to make changes to the dance to save money because junior dues traditionally make the budget.
As long as the same number of students plans to attend the dance, which is most of the junior and senior classes, the expenses stay steady.
"We didn't see a huge economic impact this year, so we were able to keep it at the Sacred Heart (Cultural Center)," Hoover said.
Although Butler students weren't dancing at a fancy place, Ariana said that's not what mattered.
"As long as I'm with my friends, as long as we have fun, it doesn't really matter where it was as long as we have fun," she said.
Staff Writer Jason Wermers contributed to this article.