DeKALB - The DeKalb District 428 school board meeting ended on Tuesday with a graduation date of Aug. 1 for the senior class of 2020, but a pair of different plans, whether a drive-thru or in-person depending on ever-changing guidelines surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
The school board also voted to approve early release days for the middle and high schools on a weekly basis next year on each Thursday, allowing for professional development day. They also voted on new officers, with Sarah Moses beating Jeromy Olson in a 4-3 vote for the position of president.
Superintendent Jamie Craven's initial proposal for board consideration was to hold a drive-thru graduation on July 11, however, the school board had other plans. At the behest of Olson, Craven said he would call the Northern Illinois University's Convocation Center on Wednesday to see if an Aug. 1 date could tentatively be reserved. If not, the school will hold the drive-through graduation on that date.
Craven initially presented the July 11 date for a ceremony in front of the bell in front of the high school. Students would arrive one at a time, receive a diploma and ring the bell. It would then be edited together into a video for the Class of 2020.
But Olson, who was the most vocal member opposed to Craven's plan, said he heard from many seniors, including his own, that they would not show up to such an event.
"The difference between July 11 and August 1 is minimal," Olson said. "The parents, it's just as big a deal for them, maybe more so. The long and short of it is these things have changed in the last week, if we jumped on this then we would have had a virtual one, not even a drive-up. My thought is to simply wait it out. If we do a special one for military kids, then so be it."
Craven said he would notify parents on Wednesday of the date set by the district.
Olson requested to check with the convocation center, which has previously announced it's not holding ceremonies in June, about holding an August date.
Valerie Pena-Hernandez raised concerns that select students would not be able to attend in either July or August, such as military students. While neither Craven nor high school principal James Horne knew the exact number or graduation seniors entering the military, they didn't want to leave them out.
"Even if it's half a dozen, we want to honor our students going to the military," Horne said.
Craven brought up how the Illinois State Board of Education changed its guidelines on graduations multiple times last week, going from forbidding any in-person ceremonies, including drive-ups, to allowing the possibility of more limited ones.
Olson said he didn't want to eliminate the possibility of a more traditional ceremony should the situation change more.
"It's really a roll of the dice," board member Jeff Hallgren said. "We really have no idea what it's going to look like."
Athletic director Peter Goff presented his plan for senior day, to take place at a date to be determined at the high school's stadium. The event starts at 10 a.m., with each senior being recognized at the stadium for five minutes.
The sports will go alphabetically with each student going alphabetically within a spot. Under Goff's plan, only four people can accompany an athlete on the field, but the event will be streamed for free on barbcast.com.
A photography company will take pictures, and all certificates and awards will be presented to the student on the field. Students can also return their uniforms.
Cars will enter the school at the traffic light, drive behind the school toward the athletic fields and wait in line. There will be an on-deck spot for who is next in line just behind the baseball field, then families can park just outside the southeast entrance to the field, walk to midfield for the certificates, then to the scoreboard for pictures.
Horne stressed both ceremonies are slated to be outside to help decrease the spread of the virus as well.