Some not happy with Class of 2020 graduation options

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LEDGER – The options given to Mitchell High School seniors for their graduation drew the ire of some parents who expressed their displeasure on social media. 

Mitchell High School principal Mark Woody sent an email to seniors Thursday, May 7, with two state-approved options for graduation. 

An option for a virtual graduation allows seniors to schedule a time to receive their diploma at the school. Pictures would be taken of the graduate and a video made of each student receiving his or her diploma. A graduation ceremony compilation video would be made and broadcast, and a copy of the video given to each graduate. The virtual graduation would adhere to social distancing guidelines.

A second drive-in graduation option allows students to pick up their diploma at a scheduled time by driving around the circle in front of the high school. Pictures would be taken of the graduate and a video made of each student receiving his or her diploma. Students and parents would arrive in a maximum of two vehicles, and students would get out of the vehicle to receive their diploma. A graduation ceremony compilation video would be made and broadcast, and a copy of the video given to each graduate.

Some parents, such as Madonna Fox, parent of senior Logan Fox, stated her displeasure with the options in a Facebook post.

“I’m not going to stand by and let my son’s graduation be taken away from him,” Fox wrote. “If any other parents are willing to meet and talk about this, please let me know ASAP. If (Superintendent) Chad Calhoun is not willing, then we will do it ourselves.”

Calhoun sent an email to seniors Friday, May 8, explaining the reasons behind the options.

“Over the last few weeks, I, along with other superintendents, have sent questions to the Department of Public Instruction to ask the Governor what we were allowed to do for our graduation,” Calhoun wrote. “It took a few weeks even to get a response.”  

Calhoun said all schools had been given three choices – virtual, drive-in or drive-thru. 

“My choice would have been to use the football field, spread everyone out six feet apart and allow four family members to attend and spread out in the stadium on the home and visitor sides,” Calhoun said. “I asked about this choice and why we could not do this, feeling we could keep everyone safe. I was told this does not follow the Governor’s executive order.”  

Calhoun said he also asked if a different type of ceremony could take place if the state is in Phase II of reopening by the original graduation date. He said he was told groups of 50 or fewer might be allowed in Phase II, but there is no guarantee the state would be in Phase II by early June. If in Phase II by the original date of graduation of Friday, June 5, Calhoun said he has thought about options such as each graduate having four guests and having “mini graduations” of 10 students at a time to keep the crowd under 50. He said he has also thought about when a typical graduation could take place.  

“I was told even in Phase III we would probably have social distancing and crowd limitations,” he said. “A couple (school) systems are planning graduation in early August, hoping they will be in Phase III, and that will be allowed. I am not sure as the Department of Public Instruction is releasing things talking about how the next school year may look. I can’t go into those discussions yet as they are not official, but they are not good.”