GOSHEN — While many of the typical dates and locations have been changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, school corporations from across the area are still putting together plans to host commencement ceremonies for their graduating seniors.
Exactly what those ceremonies will look like and where they will be held is still being discussed by some of the corporations, though plans currently include everything from in-person ceremonies, to something virtual, to some combination of the two.
Below is a list of local high schools and their current graduation plans and dates, listed earliest to latest:
Bethany Christian High School (May 24)
According to Katie Hurst, communications and marketing manager for Bethany Christian Schools, the high school plans on recognizing the class of 2020 in a virtual commencement ceremony Sunday. Students will also participate in a celebratory drive-through diploma pickup at the school after the virtual ceremony.
Hurst noted that Bethany is also planning an in-person celebration for July, hoping to gather together and offer students a meaningful send-off later this summer.
Fairfield High School (May 31)
Fairfield High School will host a graduation ceremony Sunday, May 31, according to Superintendent Robert Evans.
“We will be conducting a hybrid program with recorded messages displayed on a Jumbotron in front of our high school. Parents and guests will park and stay in their cars for the event,” Evans said of the ceremony. “Seniors will be spaced outside in their caps and gowns. The school board, superintendent, and other administrators will also be outside during the event.”
Evans noted that the plan has been approved by the Elkhart County Health Department.
Elkhart Memorial/Central High Schools (June 14 and 20)
According to Brenda Kolbe, director of communication for Elkhart Community Schools, both of the school corporation’s high schools will have in-person graduation ceremonies, held in small sessions of 40 graduates, limiting the total attendance to 250 people per session.
As currently planned, Elkhart Memorial High School’s commencement will take place Sunday, June 14, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the high school’s large auditorium, while Elkhart Central High School’s commencement is planned for Saturday, June 20, also from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the high school’s Rice Field.
“Each graduating senior will be allowed four total guests — no exceptions — to adhere to the maximum capacity approved by the Elkhart County Health Department,” Kolbe said of the events. “Graduates are asked to register their guests in advance. Each high school will manage this component directly with the graduating seniors and their families. Additionally, specific instructions about sessions, parking, entrances, and exits will be communicated directly from the schools to the graduating students and families.”
Kolbe noted that each session will last between 30 and 45 minutes, and facilities will be sanitized between each session.
“Attendees will be encouraged to socially distance to their best of their abilities,” she added, noting that neither commencement will be open to the public.
Goshen High School (June 28)
Goshen High School’s graduation ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, June 28, in the Goshen High School Gymnasium.
According to Lori Martin, executive assistant to the superintendent, the ceremony will start at noon and be spaced out in six sections alphabetically using last names. Each graduate may invite only two guests, and the graduates and guests must check in together.
“We are not using tickets this year. Your two guests must enter the door with you in order to be admitted,” Martin said of the event. “Students and guests should plan to arrive 15 minutes before the ceremony. The door to the gym will open 15 minutes before the ceremony begins. If you arrive before this time, you will need to wait in your vehicle until the doors open.”
Martin encouraged all attendees to arrive no later than five minutes before the ceremony, as late arrivals may not be admitted.
“No flowers, balloons, signs, or noisemakers will be allowed inside,” she added of the ceremony. “No outside photographers will be allowed in. Professional photos will be taken and shared with graduates. Guests may take photos from the upper areas of the gym.”
Martin noted that more detailed instructions will be mailed to graduates in June.
West Noble High School (July 10)
According to Gregory Baker, principal of West Noble High School, the high school’s graduation ceremony is planned for Friday, July 10, at 8:15 p.m. on the Charger Football Field. A backup rain date will be July 11 at 8:15 p.m.
Due to social distancing guidelines put in place by the state, the graduation ceremony will be limited to two guest tickets per student, Baker explained.
The graduation commencement will also be live-streamed and recorded for those unable to attend.
Westview Jr-Sr High School (July 10)
Westview High School will host its 2020 graduation ceremony Friday, July 10, at 7 p.m. in the high school’s main gym, according to Principal Rich Cory.
“Seniors will be given four tickets for parents and guests to attend,” Cory said of the event. “The ceremony will be broadcast by Lagwana Media for the community.
“In order to comply with Gov. Holcomb’s Phase 5 reopening, we will utilize social distancing measures in the gym and face masks are encouraged, but not required,” he added. “If you have been ill, or exposed, or have symptoms, please stay home.”
Northridge High School (July 11)
According to Middlebury Community Schools Superintendent Jane Allen, the school corporation is planning a traditional in-person graduation ceremony for Northridge High School following socially distancing guidelines this summer.
“The district is planning to have the ceremony on the varsity football field on Saturday, July 11, at 10 a.m. with a rain date set for July 12,” Allen said of the event. “Middlebury Community Schools officials have been in discussion with the Elkhart County Health Department and will comply with the social distancing guidelines recommended by the Elkhart County Health Department. By July 11, Indiana will be in Stage 5 and that will allow MCS to have a gathering of more than 250 people.”
Allen noted that while the final plan is still being developed, it will involve only allowing two tickets per student and seating all participants using social distancing guidelines.
“The committee has also agreed to an alternate plan for the same date if there is a resurgence or pandemic spread and the governor has to return to stricter guidelines,” Allen added. “The alternate plan is a drive-through format with a live stream of each student receiving their diploma.”
NorthWood High School (July 17)
According to David Maugel, principal of NorthWood High School, Wa-Nee Community Schools is planning on hosting an in-person ceremony for the high school’s graduates Friday, July 17, beginning at 7 p.m. on Andrews Field.
“After the governor’s announcement to get the state of Indiana BackOnTrack, the Senior Executive Council, senior sponsors and I discussed a few different options for celebrating,” Maugel said. “We surveyed the entire senior class and the majority voted to hold a formal ceremony on Andrews Field on Friday, July 17, with a rainout day being Saturday, July 18.
“While this will not have all the elements that we have come to appreciate in the PIT, we are confident that this will be a celebratory event,” he added. “I want to thank the Senior Executive Council and sponsors for their leadership and tough decisions they made during these challenging times.”
Maugel noted that each graduate will be allowed up to four guests, and the ceremony will follow a set of protocols for social distancing that will be aligned to the governor’s 5 stage plan and approved by the Elkhart County Health Department.
Wawasee High School (July 18)
Wawasee Community Schools is planning an in-person graduation ceremony for Wawasee High School graduates on July 18 at the school’s football stadium, with a rain date set for July 19, according to Superintendent Tom Edington.
Further details, including an event start time, will be released in the coming weeks.
Concord High School (TBD)
On May 18 Concord Community Schools hosted a walk-through commencement ceremony and students and their families were encouraged to videotape their walk for a virtual presentation later.
However, following an outcry by parents and students calling for an in-person ceremony, Concord school board members this week indicated that they will consider such a possibility, with a final decision to be made by Monday.