Virtual graduation

Signs in Monona and Cottage Grove proudly proclaim to be the home of a Monona Grove High School graduating senior. A virtual ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 7, based on guidelines issued due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Monona Grove School Board member Susan Manning would like to see the school district do more to honor the graduating seniors of the class of 2020.

At the Wednesday, May 13, school board meeting, she acknowledged the yard signs in the district honoring the seniors and some online recognition, but she asked if there isn’t more that can be done. Due to COVID-19, seniors will graduate in a virtual ceremony Sunday, June 7.

“Some colleagues have done a better job than I have of being out in front of some scheduled things,” Monona Grove High School principal Paul Brost said. “Because we’re in such a reactive mode, it has been difficult to advertise and plan very far ahead. I can tell you that in terms of the student services staff and other folks, just a lot of time and energy to keep families and kids going academically and trying to get seniors to graduate, so most of our meetings, time and energy have gone into communication and trying to get kids across the finish line more than it’s been around celebrations. That’s not an excuse, but maybe we haven’t balanced that very well.”

Earlier that day, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order, in effect leaving it up to each county on how to deal with the coronavirus. As the board was meeting, Dane County officials issued a safer-at-home order almost identical to the governor’s.

During the time when Evers’ order was in effect, Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) issued guidelines regarding school functions. Those guidelines did not change with the Supreme Court decision.

“Essentially, their guidance is pretty crystal clear that schools should be holding virtual graduation ceremonies only, we still should not be having students on school grounds at all, and that this guidance is in effect through the entire summer – and specifically that districts should not be planning alternative in-person ceremonies even later in the summer,” Superintendent Dan Olson said.

Olson said officials in other counties provided different guidelines than PHMDC, and in some cases, districts chose not to follow the guidelines, which are not backed up by law or penalties.

He said PHMDC specifically said there should not be drive-thru ceremonies, community parades or arrangements in which students visit school to pick up their diplomas.

Olson noted that some districts planned non-virtual ceremonies before the guidelines were issued.

“It’s important to pay attention to our local guidelines,” board member Susan Fox said.

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