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Schools not sure yet what they’ll do for graduation ceremonies

Spencer and Loyal at least have dates picked out for when they will do something to honor their graduating Classes of 2020. Other schools in the area are in a waitand- see mode as they try to decide if and when they’ll hold in-person ceremonies as the coronavirus closures continue.

The Spencer Board of Education has approved an Aug. 1 date for a graduation exercise, although District Administrator Mike Endreas said he has little idea of what they may eventually look like. It could be a traditional ceremony with graduates walking across the gym stage with families in attendance, or it might be some sort of virtual event. No one knows at this time, as Gov. Tony Evers’ shut-down of schools is in effect until at least June 30.

Spencer’s graduates were to receive their diplomas in a May 16 afternoon ceremony, but that has long been cancelled. No in-person classes have been held since March 16, and Spencer’s 69 seniors have been completing their coursework online. The district will hold a virtual senior recognition at 2 p.m. on Saturday -- when the ceremony would have been held -- and is planning something for Aug. 1. That event will be “whatever we’re allowed to do at that time,” Endreas said.

As the state moves toward a gradual re-opening of businesses and public areas, Endreas said school districts remain shuttered under the first order issued by Evers in March. School buildings are locked and no gatherings are to be allowed at least until July 1. Even that date is uncertain, and Endreas said little explanation of the immediate future has been forthcoming from Madison in recent weeks.

“It’s getting more gray,” he said of the uncertainty.

If crowd restrictions are lifted in summer, Endreas said Spencer may still be able to hold its usual graduation exercise on Aug. 1.

“That would be the best-case scenario,” he said.

If not, the district will devise the best way it can under restrictions then in place to honor its graduates before they head off to college and elsewhere.

“We’ll go to the max and do whatever we can,” on Aug. 1, he said.

In the Greenwood district, nothing has been scheduled yet as officials await word on what may be possible. Greenwood’s graduation was set for the morning of May 23, but that is cancelled and no other date has been set.

“The problem is, none of us really knows what the timeline is,” said District Administrator Todd Felhofer. “I know it’s been frustrating for the kids and clearly diappointing. It’s been frustrating for administrators, too, because you’d like to give an answer.”

Greenwood surveyed the families of its seniors, and most would still like to see a traditional ceremony, if and when that’s possible.

“The vast majority of people would like an in-person thing as close as possible to what we’ve had in the past,” Felhofer said. “Everybody wants it to be like it’s always been. It’s just not there right now. The bottom line is we are a school district and in charge of safety of children and families and we are probably wise to follow what the health department recommends.”

One option that has been mentioned, Felhofer said, is a ceremony to give diplomas to students without a crowd in attendance. It could be filmed and streamed online. Some sort of drive-through presentation could also be held.

It all depends, Felhofer said, on what the state will allow, and when. As of now, he said some sort of midsummer event is “looking like more and more of a likelihood.” There also is a point, he said, when it becomes too late to gather the seniors who are preparing to move to college dorms or wherever.

“I think there’s a day at which kids have moved on,” he said.

Loyal Principal Chris Lindner said the district is planning to hold a graduation event of some sort on July 31 at 7 p.m. Specifics will be sorted out as that date approaches, and there is also a possibility that the date will have to be changed. Schools are hearing word, he said, that closures will continue beyond the governor’s initial dates, and that even the start of school next fall could be delayed.

The Granton Board of Education is waiting to set definite plans. In April, the Board discussed various options, including a possible event over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, but postponed any action until more clear direction is provided by the state.

“We hope to have something as soon as it’s legal,” Board member John Richmond said in April.

Just as graduation plans are on hold, so is summer school for area students. Summer school classes usually start up in early June just after the end of the regular school year, but not in 2020.

“It’s not going to be in June, that we’re pretty sure of,” said Felhofer. “I’m guessing probably in August before we could see anything.”

Most schools provide enrichment-type offerings in summer, but that could look different this year if summer school is finally allowed. Schools could opt instead to use August time for remedial classes, to get students back in a learning routine after being out of normal classes since March.

“Maybe that’s a way for us to get kids back in the mode a little bit,” Felhofer said.

Endreas said more on-line courses could be offerd in summer, as they are now, but the state has not provided any rules on how virtual hours might be covered by state aid. Again, it’s wait-and-see.

“I hope to do something in July, but that’s up in the air,” Endreas said.