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Local

Breaking: Illinois State Board of Educations bans all in-person graduation ceremonies due to COVID-19 crisis

Matthew Apgar - mapgar@shawmedia.com
An aerial view of DeKalb High School is seen from a fully restored Ford Tri-Motor model 4-AT-E plane on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 at DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport in DeKalb.  The plane, nicknamed "Tin Goose" was the largest civilian passenger aircraft during its time in service from 1909-1926, and currently seats ten passengers during its present tour.
Matthew Apgar - mapgar@shawmedia.com An aerial view of DeKalb High School is seen from a fully restored Ford Tri-Motor model 4-AT-E plane on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 at DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport in DeKalb. The plane, nicknamed "Tin Goose" was the largest civilian passenger aircraft during its time in service from 1909-1926, and currently seats ten passengers during its present tour.

The Illinois State Board of Education has banned all in-person, drive-through or smaller-group graduation ceremonies indefinitely as school districts statewide scramble to determine how to honor graduating seniors in the Class of 2020 without violating public health stipulations.

"The directive extends to drive-through graduation ceremonies or events where students come in small groups to the school or another location for a photo or to walk across a stage," an email from ISBE State Superintendent Carmen Ayala Wednesday reads. "The governor's extended stay-at-home order prohibits group gatherings."

DeKalb 428 Superintendent Jamie Craven forwarded the email to the Daily Chronicle Thursday.

On Tuesday, the Sycamore District 427 school board announced in a public board meeting that the 2020 graduation ceremony would not be held as originally planned, instead opting for a virtual ceremony at 2 p.m. on May 24.

The Sycamore district said if public health guidance allows for such a thing, free graduation photos might occur on campus in July, with a reception tentatively planned for August 2.

Reaction to District 427's graduation plans were strong on social media this week. As a result of the news, the Sycamore senior Class of 2020 sent an open letter to the Daily Chronicle, D-427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman and the Sycamore school board imploring the district to reconsider their graduation plans.

The letter, signed by more than 120 Sycamore seniors, expressed heavy disappointment that not holding an in-person graduation ceremony would bring.

"We ask you not to move our graduation online, but to postpone it until further notice, when we know it is safe to gather," the letter reads, adding other schools in other states have made plans for a June or July ceremony. "Even if it ends up being online, allow us to hold onto some hope that we will be able to finish our high school careers like every other senior has gotten to before us. We understand that you must do what will keep us and our community safe, and we will understand if we are unable to have the ceremony later in the summer, and we will be thankful to at least have that opportunity."

The D-428 school board has not yet voted on amended graduation plans, but are expected to do so at their board meeting Tuesday, set for 7 p.m., which will be available for anyone to watch on the district's YouTube channel.

In an email to district families Wednesday, Craven said details regarding the 2020 graduation ceremony have not yet been announced, but all end-of-year celebrations will need to be virtual moving forward.

The problem, Craven said, is that the future is still so uncertain, so setting alternate dates for in-person ceremonies in the summer or fall doesn't mean they will be able to happen then.

He said administrators across the state "feel horrible" for their students, but their hands are tied.

"Anything that we plan even for June or July or August is of course tentative based on where we're at," Craven said. "Graduation is such a special day, and all of the things that lead up to graduation that these kids have been cheated out of. I understand students and parents want some type of in-person graduation, but right now, according to what's been given to us, it's not possible."

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