Nearly two months after the original date, the members of the Switzerland County High School Class of 2020 will go through commencement exercises this Saturday, July 18th.
The graduation ceremony will be held outdoors at the Pacer Athletic Field, and will begin at 10 a.m.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s graduation will be different, but High School Principal David Todd and his staff have worked hard to give the seniors a ceremony that falls in line with guidelines in dealing with the pandemic and working to keep everyone safe.
“It’s important for everyone to know that each graduate has been given a specific number of tickets, and those will be the only people allowed to attend the graduation,” Todd said. “Those tickets have been distributed, so if you don’t have a ticket, you won’t be admitted to the ceremony. The general public will not be permitted to attend this year because of limitations on the number of people who can gather. This is a socially distanced event, and if we don’t do it this way, then we wouldn’t be able to have it, so if you don’t have a ticket, please don’t attend.”
Todd said that ceremony will be live streamed through ETC on Saturday, so people will be able to watch online through the school’s website and YouTube beginning at 10 a.m.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s decision last week to delay the implementation of Phase 5 of the state’s re-opening plan — which would have raised the number of people allowed at a gathering from 250 to 500 — but Todd said that because the ceremony is being held outside at the athletic field, and since school officials have implemented a seating plan for the bleachers, the school is in compliance with the state guidelines.
Had the ceremony been set for in the gym, the restrictions may have caused some issues. Holcomb is expected to announce either today (Thursday) or tomorrow (Friday) if the state is moving to Stage 5, but even if that happens, the graduation restrictions will stay in place.
As for the ceremony, Todd said that ticket holders will be socially distanced in the stands. The Principal said that face masks are recommended, but not required; and temperatures will not be taken. Tickets will be checked at the entrance gate.
Weather could also play a role in the ceremony.
Todd said that should the community experience severe weather, the backup plan is to hold the ceremony next Saturday, July 25th; but in the event of light showers, options range from sending people to their cars for a period of time until the shower passes; to pressing on through the graduation. Todd said that guests may bring umbrellas for both rain and shade, but asked that everyone be mindful of the people sitting around them.
“There are chances of pop up stuff, but we really feel like we’re going to get it in,” Todd said. “If there’s some rain at 10 a.m., we might delay it slightly, but we’re not going to postpone it and have it later that evening. We might wait out the weather, kind of like a baseball game. It’s either at 10 a.m. with a slight delay, or it’s going to be the next Saturday.”
Principal Todd said there will be painter’s tape on the bleachers to designate where families can and cannot sit; with the graduates being seated on the athletic field.
“Our graduates will be arriving at the baseball field by 9:20 a.m.,” Todd said. “We’ll have some seats inside the baseball field. We’re going to sit them there and go over the ceremony with them and then we’ll line them up and walk them over the track and go from there.”
In order to allow graduates to have as many family members in attendance as possible, the school made some difficult decisions to keep numbers lower. The band and choir will not be performing at the ceremony, and staff members were asked to watch the ceremony online to keep overall numbers lower.
Valedictorian Ally Furnish will be speaking as a part of the ceremony, with Salutatorian Allison Detmer being announced and honored.
Class Vice President Trey Gray will be leading the invocation prayer; and Class President Jacey Peelman will be leading her classmates in the turning of the tassels. Other class officers include Secretary Kayla Scranton and Treasurer Ally Furnish.
There won’t be any other speaker for the graduation; other than some short remarks from Superintendent Rod Hite and Principal Todd.
Todd said that should there be any change in the ceremony times or dates, school officials will work quickly to inform everyone using social media and school message systems.
“We are committed to do everything we can to give our seniors this time to honor them in a graduation ceremony,” Todd said.
See Vevay Media Group’s special section honoring graduates from Switzerland County and Rising Sun High Schools in today’s edition.