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Signs, banners and virtual ceremonies: What is your school doing to honor the class of 2020?
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Signs, banners and virtual ceremonies: What is your school doing to honor the class of 2020?


Here's how schools across Southern Illinois are celebrating the class of 2020.

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Anna-Jonesboro: Anna-Jonesboro has moved its graduation ceremony to June 27 with the hope of being able to have an in-person ceremony, according to superintendent Rob Wright. Wright said if an in-person ceremony is not possible at that time, the school will look at other options available.

Benton: Benton High School has postponed traditional in-person graduation to May 30. If postponed again, the second rescheduled date is June 13, according to Superintendent Benjamin Johnson.

If state guidelines do not allow for a traditional ceremony to occur on June 13, a drive-thru ceremony will be held on June 13. The event will include an opportunity for individual pictures to be taken of graduates in their cap and gown while holding their diploma jackets.

The school has also released a senior spotlight slideshow, purchased individual yard signs for each graduate and have ordered large banners to be displayed in the front of the high school.

Carbondale: Carbondale Community High School is planning a graduation video for the Class of 2020 with opportunities for seniors to get their picture taken in their cap and gown on May 16 in the works, according to principal Ryan Thomas. The school has other surprises for the graduates throughout the coming weeks. 

“We know this is a painful time for our seniors and we are trying to make the next few weeks as special as possible in honoring our amazing Class of 2020,” Thomas said.

Carrier Mills-Stonefort: The school district plans to hold a graduation ceremony later in the summer, the fall, or even over Christmas break, depending on state mandates, according to Bryce Jerrell, Carrier Mills-Stonefort High School principal and district superintendent.

The school is collecting graduation cards from the community to give to the seniors next week. Jerrell purchased purple and gold yard signs with each senior’s name on it, which will be displayed in front of the high school until the end of the school year. Seniors will be able to keep the signs after the school year ends on May 19.

Carrier Mills is also having a parade to celebrate the seniors at 6 p.m. May 8, during which WBEQ, the local radio station, will announce each graduating student and their accomplishments/scholarships. Students and their families will be required to stay in their vehicles. Each graduating student will get a to-go dinner at the end of the parade.

Carterville: Carterville High School’s in-person graduation is postponed until further notice, according to principal Todd Rogers.

Century: Century High School will be purchasing yard signs for graduating students and are postponing graduation ceremonies indefinitely.

Chester: Chester High School has rescheduled its in-person graduation for Aug. 2. It is set to be held in their football field in order to practice social distancing, according to Principal Missy Meyer. The school also put up banners with the graduating seniors’ pictures in front of the school and yard signs at the seniors’ homes. Seniors will also be featured on digital marquees in town.

Southern Illinois schools maintain graduation pomp in unusual circumstances

Senior banners are seen at Chester High School.

Christopher: Christopher High School has postponed its traditional graduation ceremony until further guidance is given from the ISBE, according to Superintendent Richard Towers. Community members in Christopher have been painting storefronts to honor the seniors and signs honoring them will be displayed soon. 

Cobden: Cobden High School will be hosting graduation at 7 p.m. July 18, 2020, pending social distancing guidelines, according to Superintendent Edwin L. Shoemate.

Cobden will also be holding a drive-thru parade at 7 p.m. on May 15 to honor graduating students. Seniors will be driven by their parents along the parade route — the same route as the Peach Festival Parade — wearing cap and gown. Organizers are asking area residents to decorate signs, yards and storefronts to honor seniors, but to make sure they practice "safe social distancing” by staying in their cars.

Crab Orchard: Crab Orchard High School will be waiting for updated guidelines from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker before announcing alternatives to graduation ceremonies, according to Superintendent Derek Hutchins.

Du Quoin: The Du Quoin High School graduation ceremony has been postponed until July and the school has not set a date as of yet, according to Superintendent Matthew Hickam. The district is working on ways to recognize the senior class on May 15 and will be sharing more information in the coming days.

Egyptian: Egyptian High School will be honoring their 18 graduating students through a video graduation ceremony, according to Bret Gowin, the principal at Egyptian High School. Seniors will visit the school one at a time during prearranged times to have a teacher record them crossing the stage with their cap and gown. The videos, along with the traditional commencement speeches, will be edited into a “traditional” graduation video. The school has also purchased banners honoring graduating students and have been running their names on their digital marquee.

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Elverado: Elverado High School has postponed its in-person graduation until July or until Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker relaxes the stay-at-home mandate, according to Principal Neil Hargis. The school’s booster club has bought yard signs to honor graduating seniors and the school is working on doing a virtual scholarship honors night for seniors.

Frankfort: The school has not yet decided on alternative plans to graduation, according to Matt Donkin, superintendent for Frankfort CUSD No. 168.

Hardin County: Hardin County High School will be postponing its graduation ceremony until Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order is lifted, according to Superintendent Andreas Edmondson.

Harrisburg: Harrisburg Unit 3 School District will wait through June to see if gathering restrictions are relaxed, and Superintendent Mike Gauch is “very hopeful” to have a graduation ceremony that is as “close to normal as possible.”

Gauch said school leaders are ready with alternative plans, if needed, such as a virtual graduation ceremony, but prefers to wait as long as possible before giving up on the traditional in-person route.

Herrin: Herrin High School is looking at hosting an in-person graduation either in June or July if social distancing regulations permit, according to Principal Jeff Johnson. Local businesses have been featuring pictures and names of graduating students on their marquees. Johnson said no matter the school’s plans, they will follow Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.

Johnston City: Johnston City High School is hoping to host an in-person graduation ceremony in June or July if social distancing guidelines permit, according to Principal Richard Ozment. The school has also purchased yard signs for seniors and banners highlighting the graduating students. The banners will be displayed in front of the school from May 11 to May 18.

Marion: Marion High School is hoping to hold a traditional graduation ceremony over the summer if state guidelines permit, according to Keith Oates, superintendent for Marion CUSD No. 2. Local businesses and the City of Marion will also be honoring graduating seniors on various digital marquees in town during the month of May.

Meridian: Meridian High School will be having a drive-thru graduation and parade on May 16, according to Principal Maryanne Boren. Students will drive around the elementary and junior/high school school with staff approximately 15 feet apart from each other on the sidewalks as they congratulate the graduates. Students will also be allowed to enter the building and walk across the stage of their school gym — entering through one door and exiting through another. Boren said the school hopes to film that portion and edit it together into one video.

Meridian has also bought yard signs for the graduating students and teachers will be writing notes to the graduates. The seniors will be recognized in the local newspaper and the school has used electronic and social media platforms to highlight the seniors.

Murphysboro: A working group was created at Murphysboro High School to assess the various plans related to graduation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Principal Cody Ellermeyer. The school has a contingency plan to hold a virtual ceremony at 7 p.m. on May 23 if state mandates don’t allow for in-person ceremonies. With updated guidance from the ISBE, the working group is looking at the possibility of a drive-in graduation, but final plans have not been made at this time, Ellermeyer said.

The school will also be showcasing seniors on social media and will be sharing surprises with graduating students throughout the month of May. Community members have lined Walnut Street in Murphysboro with signs honoring each senior.

Sesser-Valier: Sesser-Valier High School will be waiting to hold an in-person traditional graduation ceremony “even if that doesn’t happen until July/August,” according to Jason Henry, superintendent for Sesser-Valier CUSD 196.

Shawnee: Shawnee High School has pushed back its graduation ceremony to 7 p.m. June 30, according to Superintendent Shelly Clover-Hill. “We are hoping the gathering restrictions will either be relaxed or lifted to allow our graduates and their families to celebrate with an in-person ceremony,” Clover-Hill said. “If restrictions are still enforced, we will conduct a virtual ceremony on the same date.”

The Shawnee community has also honored seniors by placing surprise signs in the graduating student’s yards, and hosted a #BeTheLight celebration on April 24 in which the campus was lit at 8:20 P.M. — or 20:20 in military time — with the help of community families, fire engines, ambulances and a 30-foot raised American flag, which students drove under while “Pomp and Circumstance” was played.

Southern Illinois schools maintain graduation pomp in unusual circumstances

Shawnee High School’s #BeTheLight celebration is pictured on April 24.

Steeleville: Steeleville High School is hoping to have an in-person graduation ceremony over the summer, according to Principal Jennifer Haertling. If state guidelines do not allow for the event, the school will go back to the drawing board.

Additionally, the school has gifted each of the 38 graduating seniors a yard sign and banners celebrating graduating students will be put up along Main Street. The school also hosted an “Adopt a Senior” event where members of the community are able to sponsor a student to send them small gifts and notes of encouragement.

The senior girls at the high school were also able to show off their prom dresses on the popular video app “TikTok” after the dance was canceled due to gathering restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thompsonville: Thompsonville High School has not yet made a decision on graduation plans, according to Principal Jamie Chiaventone.

Zeigler-Royalton: Zeigler-Royalton High School is in the works of finalizing graduation plans, but “nothing is concrete at the moment,” according to principal Matt Morgan. The school put together a “then and now” video celebrating the seniors through a mix of baby pictures, senior pictures and messages of encouragement from the staff and administration.

Photos: Southern Illinois schools maintain graduation pomp in unusual circumstances

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Brian Munoz is a correspondent for The Southern.

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