HJ - Clarinda Plans Outdoor Graduation 2020

Clarinda senior William Shull, right, receives his diploma from Clarinda Community School District Board of Directors president Greg Jones during the 2019 Clarinda High School graduation ceremony. Clarinda has announced plans to hold an outdoor graduation for the Class of 2020 at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 21, at Cardinal Field. (Herald-Journal photo by Joe Moore)

It's better late than never.

Clarinda has announced plans for an outdoor graduation ceremony to be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 21, to honor the Clarinda High School Class of 2020. There are 70 students in the graduating class.

"Walking across the stage is a milestone for the seniors and they have waited 13 years to do it. I'm glad we are able to do this and get back together to celebrate the kids," Clarinda High School principal Denise Green said.

Initial discussions on how to handle graduation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic started shortly after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced April 17 that all Iowa schools would be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Clarinda had initially scheduled its graduation for Sunday, May 17.

Green said she spoke with the class officers about the options that existed for the ceremony given the restrictions associated with the virus. Holding a virtual graduation on May 17 was considered, but a poll of the seniors indicated they would rather wait to hold an in-person ceremony once the restrictions were adequately loosened.

Therefore, the administration began working in cooperation with the Clarinda Community School District Board of Directors and the Page County Public Health Department to develop a plan for the event.

"With everybody's cooperation we were able to do this for the kids. There was great support out there to make this happen," Green said.

The members of the senior class will be seated on the football field at Cardinal Field, while parents, family members and other guests will be seated in the bleachers. Each senior will be issued six tickets to distribute to the guests they would like to attend the ceremony.

Green said the plan to use tickets was developed to ensure attendance did not exceed the 50% capacity limit placed on businesses and other facilities as a result of the COVID-19 virus. Each group of guests sitting in the bleachers will be separated by 6 feet to comply with social distancing requirements.

Although Reynolds announced Wednesday, June 10, the 50% capacity restriction was being lifted for Iowa businesses, Green said Clarinda would still use the ticket system for the graduation.

"In order to get in you will have to have a ticket from one of the students. It's not going to be like our traditional graduation ceremony that's open to the public and anyone can come," Green said.

However, members of the community without tickets will have an option to watch the event online. Green said the graduation ceremony will be streamed in much the way athletic events are streamed. A link to the steaming service will be made available prior to the graduation.

"Usually our gym is packed. We can fit approximately 1,000 people in the gym, but we can't do that this year. So we want to make sure community members, other family like aunts and uncles, and other students have an opportunity to watch it," Green said.

Many aspects of the ceremony will look very traditional. The class valedictorian, salutatorian and class president will each speak before the individual seniors walk across the stage to receive diplomas. However, due to the attendance limits and social distancing requirements, the school band and school choir will not perform.

Guests attending the outdoor graduation will be able to park outside Cardinal Field as they do for football games. Handicapped parking will also be available at the top of the hill on the north end of the field. People utilizing the handicapped parking will still need a ticket to enter and are asked to remain in their vehicles.

In case of rain or excessive heat, the graduation ceremony will be moved from Cardinal Field to the Clarinda High School gymnasium. Green said the ceremony would also be moved to the gymnasium if construction has started on an improvement project planned for the football field this summer.

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