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What ifs continue to surround senior graduation

Unfortunately, the typical graduation march may not be heard for high school seniors, at least not in the traditional way. After school districts were closed in March, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, school administrators have worked to see what can be done for their graduating students.

“Students do want to have their typical graduation if they can,” said Cornell superintendent Paul Schley. “But, it doesn’t sound good.”

Along with superintendents Jenny Starck, Cadott, and Kurt Lindau, Lake Holcombe, Schley is in contact with the Chippewa County Department of Public Health, as to what can be done. The school grounds are closed until after June 30, but even then, unless the restrictions for large gatherings are relaxed, graduation may have to be modified.

Starck says they have looked at having the ceremony on the football field or at the Country Fest grounds to have people maintain social distancing, but said it’s not always cut and dried.

“Of course, with a lot of things, we’re not sure,” said Starck. “There is no clear answer, necessarily to this.”

For example, if social distancing rules are not followed, if something happens during an event, the school’s insurance company will not provide coverage.

Cadott has talked about having kids come in separately or as a drive-thru option, while Cornell is adamant they need an in-person ceremony for the students and families. If possible, Cornell might be able to use the football field sometime in July for a ceremony.

If all else fails, a virtual ceremony could take place.

“We’re going to do that as an absolutely last resort,” said Cornell Middle/High School principal Dave Elliott. “Because, it is incredibly important to have that family member there, that parent there, at graduation.”

Lake Holcombe is also trying to plan, and may have a virtual awards ceremony and providing the senior choice graband- go senior meal. Seniors also are getting yard signs and class t-shirts.

“We had talked about doing something with a radio station… they were not interested in that,” said Lake Holcombe principal Mark Porter.

In addition to graduation, proms are something else that never took place, but administrators haven’t given up and are asking students if they would like to have two proms next school year, or combine them. As for summer school, if restrictions are lifted or loosened, the courses could take place in August. If not, summer school would be virtual.

“I don’t know if kids are going to want to do it,” said Schley, adding that teachers might not want to do it either, after months of teaching regular curriculum online. “What we’re hearing now, we’re going to be darn lucky to start in September. Nobody really knows, because it’s changing so much. As of right now, it doesn’t look like there are going to be fall sports.”

Districts also need to think about underlying health conditions, where kids can’t come back to school, or won’t, because some parents are afraid kids will be carriers, which would spread it to other relatives. That, of course, leads to enrollment dropping.

“There are so many variables…I don’t even know where to go,” said Schley. “I wish I could give you more answers, but we just don’t have them.”

Starck says it’s been hard to figure out any plans, as more information keeps piling in and changing so rapidly.

“Everything we do has more questions than answers,” said Starck.