After missing prom, homecoming celebrations, normal sports and club seasons, and other high notes of the high school experience, Janesville seniors will get something this year: an in-person graduation ceremony.
The Janesville School Board this week unanimously approved a plan to host outdoor ceremonies at Monterey Stadium for Craig High School on June 3 and Parker High School on June 4. Both ceremonies will begin at 7 p.m.
Seniors at the district’s charter schools will have indoor ceremonies in either the Craig or Parker auditorium June 5 and 6.
“We know graduation is something that was a huge miss for our seniors last year. That was a hard thing for them,” Parker Principal Chris Laue said at Tuesday’s meeting. “I speak as a principal and as a parent of a senior, that was something that was a huge loss for them.”
After surveying seniors and their parents, it became apparent that most preferred a face-to-face celebration, Laue said.
Spreading out the ceremonies over four days—rather than over separate weekends—will make it easier for families who have students at different schools, he said.
The outdoor ceremony will look different, and setup will be important. Everyone must wear masks and socially distance themselves, and the plan could change based on updated recommendations from federal and local health officials.
“Take everything that you think of when you visualize our graduation, set that aside,” Laue said. “In order to achieve what we’re asking, it will look different, and it will require some flexibility on all of our parts to make that happen.
“We’ve already looked at the stadium and looked at the facilities and have started to make plans about how we could safely distance guests that would come and safely distance our graduates, and we think that we can achieve that,” he said. “Things as simple as how do you do the processional with kids to ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ coming in has to be rethought and has to be revised in order to make that safe. But we’ve had initial conversations, and we think we can definitely do that.”
Craig Principal Alison Bjoin said offering an in-person ceremony was a priority this year, but seniors aren’t required to attend. Those who do not attend can arrange to pick up their diplomas.
Spectators will be limited, but the exact number per senior has not yet been determined. The company that traditionally provides graduation audio will live-stream the events for families who can’t attend.
If weather becomes an issue that week, the district has reserved the stadium so it could hold Parker and Craig celebrations on the same day if needed.
District officials also hope to have a socially distanced picnic for students as a send-off. Both Laue and Bjoin said they will find a way to honor seniors, regardless of what happens over the next few months.
“A lot of the things they normally would do, they’ve not been able to do. They’ve not had a prom; they’ve not had a homecoming; they’ve not had lots of things,” Laue said. “But we want to honor and celebrate their accomplishments because it’s important. They’ve worked hard; they’ve forgone a lot, and they’ve persevered.”