One Step Closer….What’s Next For The Class of 2020. ALAH High School Principal Steffanie Seegmiller and Superintendent Shannon Cheek posed for a quick picture Friday afternoon as they were placing Ryan Yeakley’s cap and gown, yard sign, Knights face mask, along with some other surprises in the trunk of his car. As every graduating senior, some with their families, entered the circle drive they were individually announced and greeted by administration and staff members applauding and cheering. The original plan was for a parade consisting of administration and faculty traveling 150 miles in a four hour period delivering their senior goodies to each of their homes but that idea had to be scrapped unfortunately due to the guidelines from the Illinois State Board of Education and our local health departments preventing them from having the parade.
On Wednesday evening, April 29 State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., posted an update that stated the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) issued updated guidelines on Monday afternoon regarding upcoming graduation ceremonies.
There were three new items in it, including a suggestion that districts work in coordination with local public health departments when coming up with plans for students and employees to collect their belongings and a re-emphasis on the fact that there are TO BE NO IN-PERSON GRADUATION celebrations of any type.
“In-person graduation ceremonies are not allowed at this time. A drive-through graduation/recognition ceremony or events where students come in small groups to the school or another location for a photo or to walk across the stage are in person and therefore not allowed. The Governor’s extended stay at home order prohibits group gatherings. While there may be a time when large events can be held, it is not known when that will be safe. Districts should find other ways to honor 8th grade students and seniors through virtual ceremonies and celebrations.”
Fast forward to May 1 when the ISBE tweeted, “We know how important graduations are in the lives of students, and ISBE is developing updated recommendations for graduation ceremonies in consultation with the IDPH to align with the new disaster proclamation and updated stay-at-home order that Governor Pritzker enacted yesterday.”
Shannon Cheek, Arthur CUSD #305 Superintendent released the following update on the school’s website Friday:
“As you are aware we communicated the message yesterday from the Illinois State Board of Education that provided clear rules and guidelines that schools were to follow as it related to graduations and graduation ceremonies. This clearly disrupted and challenged us administratively as we had been working on multiple options for providing our Seniors opportunities to be honored.
Emotions are high right now and we are right there with all of you in experiencing those emotions. We have been working tirelessly in creating plans and opportunities that both honor our Seniors, while abiding by the guidelines set forth from the Governor and the Illinois State Board of Education. The provided guidelines have been altered and changed multiple times which has posed some serious challenges for us administratively. We felt like we had a solid plan developed, but the language that was clarified by the Illinois State Board of Education forced us to go back to the drawing board.
We want to clear up any confusion that may be out there regarding our plans moving forward, and we hope that this message will help. We have learned today that the rules and regulations that were just handed down by the Illinois State Board of Education yesterday may be altered or changed again. We received word this morning that they are consulting with the Illinois Department of Health to potentially redefine the rules for ceremonies or celebrations moving forward.”
Superintendent Cheek continued, “The roller coaster of emotions are tough for all of us to manage and for that we apologize. We are grateful that you continue to be patient with us and understand the difficulty of managing this situation. We ask that you continue to work with us as we try to manage the many different orders, directives, rules and regulations we are trying to filter through.
In addition to the virtual graduation experience, we have also been exploring the possibility of still providing an in-person graduation ceremony. We have explored many options for this experience which include hosting it outside. As mentioned, this does continue to be a challenge as the rules and regulations seem to change just as we finalize a plan to move forward. We would like to provide a date(s) in which we plan to host an in-person ceremony with the understanding that the date(s) and or the possibility of hosting any in-person ceremony could be altered or cancelled based on information that we get from the State. Tentatively, we are exploring two possible dates, one in late June and one in late July. This will hopefully provide us options that will insulate us from future possibly changes handed down from the State. Details related to the actual ceremony will be released at a later time when we receive more definitive information from the State.
It is our hope that we will be able to provide our Seniors with the celebrations and honors they so deserve. We are working hard and trying to develop plans that will be sensitive to the ever changing environment we are working in these days. Thank you for your understanding and patience as we continue to navigate this together.”