Graduations, proms pose dilemmas for schools
by BRIAN NADIG
Graduation and prom are milestones in a student’s life, and for the Class of 2020 those celebrations could be canceled or delayed 6 months or longer in some instances due to the pandemic.
At Taft High School, administrators are exploring options other than a virtual graduation, but a final decision has not been made.
"A lot don’t want a Zoom graduation," principal Mark Grishaber said of the student feedback. "It’s so impersonal."
The Illinois State Board of Education recently issued guidelines for limited in-person graduations, clearing the way for drive-in and other commencement ceremonies. Students would have to be honored individually, with no more than one graduate on a stage at a time, and masks could be taken off briefly for a photo of the student and a staff member.
In addition, graduates and family members would have to be warned that washrooms would be unavailable because they could become gathering places, according to the state board. The board also said that potential heat issues should be taken into consideration if a ceremony were to be held outdoors or it families had to wait in their vehicle before their child is honored.
One of the challenges facing schools is that state health guidelines could change at any time.
At Resurrection Prep High School, graduation had been scheduled for May 28 but was rescheduled to Thursday, July 16, at Holy Name Cathedral, 730 N. Wabash Ave.
On its Web site, Resurrection states that the July 16 ceremony is subject to change.
"In the unfortunate scenario that social distancing is extended indefinitely and no large gatherings are permitted, we are exploring various options, including the possibility of hosting a combined honors convocation and graduation the week of Thanksgiving 2020. We hope that this would not be the case, and we are open to alternate ideas from students and families of the Class of 2020," the Web site states.
The Chicago Public Schools is planning a citywide online commencement ceremony with Oprah Winfrey as the speaker for mid-June.
For schools, prom generates additional challenges since dancing is a big part of the celebrations, according to school officials.
Grishaber said that a virtual type of prom appears unlikely and that this year’s dance could be postponed indefinitely. One option would be for this year’s seniors to hold a class reunion some time in the next 5 years that would in essence serve as a delayed prom, he said.
Resurrection has postponed its senior prom, which had been scheduled for May 15.
"There are several challenges to rescheduling, due to anticipated social distancing restrictions and the availability of venues. If we are able to gather as a group, the senior class moderator and class officers will meet to review options for the summer. However, we need to hear from the members of the Class of 2020," the school posted on its site.