The Waterloo High School class of 2020 won’t be graduating in July; instead, district administration decided to have the event shifted back to June 7. But, it will not look like any commencement ceremony seen by the district before.
The Waterloo School Board had initially rescheduled commencement exercises for July 19 during its April 27 meeting. The graduation was set to be held at the football field/track complex and each senior would be allowed to invite four people to the event. At that meeting, board members asked what would happen if large groups of people were not allowed to gather; Superintendent Brian Henning said the administration would reassess the feasibility of the proposed event as the date got closer.
However, during Monday night’s board meeting, high school principal Brad Donner said there have been multiple suggestions from various state agencies and school organizations, such as the Department of Health Services, Department of Public Instruction and Wisconsin Association of School Boards, suggesting no in-person spring or summer school gatherings, including graduation, be held.
“We’re having a tough time in knowing what voice to listen to,” Henning said. “We’ve never been through something like this before but it seems to be stronger than ever that people are recommending you don’t have any in-person graduation ceremonies.”
Donner had talked with high school counselor and senior class advisor Carmen Follmer who suggested it would be better to have a blended commencement on June 7. This could include having a slideshow posted on the school’s website and Facebook page in addition to a drive-thru at the elementary school main entrance for seniors to pick up their diplomas.
The principal said the seniors would be invited to drive up to the canopy area, while wearing their cap and gown, leave their vehicle to pick up their diploma from a table, and pose for an official graduation photo, which would then be posted on the district’s website.
“If we try to hang on to the July 19, it’s so hard to tell with the different messages that we’re getting from the different agencies in the state, we could be open, we could be shut … and then do you move it back to August (if schools are still closed in July) and then it really starts to lose its meaning,” Donner said.
High school senior Makenna Holzhueter, who serves as a student representative on the school board, said in talking with her peers, they don’t believe an in-person ceremony would be the best option, but would be OK with what Donner described.
“(July graduation) just wouldn’t be the same,” she said. “We’d have to be socially distanced, we wouldn’t be able to take pictures with our friends and also getting into the end of summer months, we’re getting jobs and getting ready for college. It’s hard to plan if we don’t have an exact date and it keeps changing … We’ve already lost so much.”
The board members noted it was unfortunate that the class of 2020 will not be able to host a traditional graduation ceremony, but agreed a June 7 blend of virtual and in-person event would be the best choice. Further details will be released at a later date.