Schools begin to work out graduation plans


Jasper High School’s Class of 2020 planned to walk across the stage in cap and gown on the evening of May 22 to receive their high school diplomas. While that is no longer an option, graduates and their families will still get a procession that evening. School officials organized a parade through the city during the time that commencement would have been.

“We wanted to let them know we appreciate all their hard work,” Principal Bryan Wilson said.

The JHS parade is one of several ways local school leaders are trying to provide celebration and closure for the Class of 2020. School administrators across the county still hope to hold traditional commencement ceremonies when possible under Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Back on Track Indiana plan, and many have announced tentative dates in July.

Jasper hopes to hold a traditional commencement on July 24, but what exactly that will look like is still unknown, as the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic could alter Indiana’s reopening plan at any time.

In the meantime, the parade is serving as a celebration JHS leadership knows can happen. Jasper students and their families can take part in the parade in the same vehicle, and a special program will be broadcast on the high school’s radio station, 93.7 The Scratch. The school resource officers, other Jasper Police officers and a fire engine will accompany the parade, which will begin at the high school, travel north to Jasper Middle School, turn onto 36th Street, proceed down Newton and onto Sixth Street before taking St. Charles Street back to the high school. Jasper residents are encouraged to line the parade route, while following social distancing guidelines, to celebrate with the seniors.

At Northeast Dubois High School, the plan is to hold commencement on July 25, but where it will be and what exactly the ceremony will look like is still undecided. Senior class leaders and school administrators are waiting to make a decision until the date is nearer and they have a better idea of what COVID-19 restrictions will be in place.

“We know that whatever we decide will be last minute,” Principal Tara Rasche said. “We are at the mercy of the virus, the pandemic and the government as much as anyone else.”

For now, Rasche, senior class officers and student council officers are keeping conversations about what commencement could look like going and coming up with multiple plans. Plan A is to hold the event in the gym — likely with a limited number of tickets available for each student — and to livestream the ceremony for those who couldn’t attend in person. But it all depends on what the situation is in July.

Northeast Dubois senors' parents will host a parade for seniors at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 23. The community is invited to line the parade route to support  2020 senior class, while social distancing.

The caravan will begin at Dubois Community Park, travel north on North Fourth Street, pass Dubois Middle School, north on North Dubois Road Northeast, turn around at Northeast Dubois High School, back to Fourth Street, west on East Main Street, then south on Highway 545, returning to the park.

Seniors will need to arrive at the Dubois Community Park by 5:30 p.m. They are encouraged to decorate their vehicles. Prizes will be presented for three decoration categories: best school spirit, COVID-19 and future plans. Only one student and their family is allowed per vehicle. Students cannot ride together unless they live in the same house. 

Forest Park plans to hold its commencement ceremony on July 18.

Southridge High School hopes to hold its commencement at Raider Field on July 18, but 2020 class sponsor Michelle Allen said the ceremony will move inside in case of inclement weather.

Heritage Hills plans to hold its commencement at Lincoln Amphitheatre on July 10.

Although school leaders can offer seniors and their families little more than a tentative date for commencement ceremonies for now, it’s comforting to know that some sort of ceremony is in the works.

“We’re pretty glad with whatever we can get at this point,” Northeast Dubois senior Shelby Livingston said. “It will make this summer a lot more memorable.”

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