The Milton School District will move forward with a virtual high school graduation ceremony. The school board unanimously approved the change Monday.
The event will be streamed at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 7 (the original time and date for commencement), via the student-run Red Hawk Media. Included will be prerecorded speeches by Milton High School Principal Jeremy Bilhorn, honor graduates and Superintendent Rich Dahman.
“It’s been kind of a journey getting to this point of what is going to be allowed and what is not going to be allowed for what is usually — and still will be — the best day of the year at Milton High School on graduation Sunday,” Bilhorn told the school board Monday. “We’re looking forward to trying to provide the best opportunity for our graduates this year, taking into account trying to be as safe as possible.”
Students will receive their diplomas before June 7, and pictures of each student will be shared in the video ceremony.
A video tribute also will be offered in honor of the Class of 2020.
Graduates can set up individual appointments from May 26 to 29 to walk across a decorated stage in the performing arts center, pick up their diplomas and have their pictures taken for the virtual ceremony.
Students who choose that option can be joined by up to four parents. The only other people in the performing arts center will be Bilhorn, the photographer and one other staff member to disinfect the area between each graduate.
Students who do not want to come to school can have their diplomas delivered to their homes and have their pictures taken by a photographer. A third option is they can have their diplomas mailed to them, take their own pictures and send them in for the virtual ceremony.
Dahman said Monday he believes the online graduation ceremony isn’t the event the district expected, but it’s a quality substitute during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Jeremy and his staff at the high school have put an incredible amount of time in planning graduation and making sure we have an opportunity to celebrate our senior Class of 2020 and celebrating the 100th graduating class from Milton High School, but also ensure that we’re doing it in a safe manner that gets the stamp of approval from Rock County Public Health, from local law enforcement, from our insurance company and from our legal folks,” Dahman said.
Board member Michael Hoffman agreed, saying the virtual ceremony is a good alternative.
“I think you’ve offered students really good options, and given the situation, I think you’ve made the most of it,” Hoffman said. “And I do think it will be a day of celebration, which it should be.”
Bilhorn said the high school still hopes to hold an in-person “zero-year reunion” for the graduates.
In an email to seniors and parents May 12, he wrote: "We understand that one of the most special parts of our graduation ceremony is being able to celebrate with classmates - something we cannot recreate given the restrictions at this time. When we are able to move into where we can have larger gatherings, we will schedule and host an event for the Class of 2020 at Milton High School. This will also allow for classmates to come together and celebrate a really terrific group of students and allow them the time to walk through the school and try to gain that part of the closure of their time at MHS.
"Clearly, this is not what any of us wanted for our students. It is not what students wanted, but it is the best we are able to do given the current parameters. Our goal is to focus on the positive and use this ceremony to celebrate the most important thing -- the young adults in the MHS Class of 2020 and their high school graduation, and wish them well as we launch them into the future."