CLINTON — High school graduates of 2020 have lost their traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” moment due to government restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, but inventive educators have found other ways to celebrate the milestone.
“We have a couple of different options planned right now,” Clinton High School Principal J.R. Kuch said Tuesday.
Students who want to do so will be able to walk across the stage in Yourd gymnasium and receive their diplomas Sunday, May 31.
“We are going to have students sign up for a time ... to come in the school,” said Kuch. A few families members will be allowed in to watch the students as they enter Yourd through one door, hear their names called, walk onto the stage and receive their diplomas.
Students will exit through the shop doors. Fewer than 10 people will be in the gym at any time, Kuch said, and students and staff will have no contact.
“We’ll splice together all the speeches and all the kids walking across the stage,” Kuch said. “[We] will put it online so families will see the entire production.”
Depending on social distancing allowed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, the district may have a full graduation ceremony on the football field Friday, July 24 or Saturday, July 25 in the event of inclement weather Friday.
The school would limit the number of family members who could attend, Kuch said. Following the graduation, the school would serve a dinner for seniors and their dates who want to attend prom that night.
The dance is tentative, said Kuch. It depends on the loosening of government restrictions.
Thursday and Friday, May 14 and 15, families of seniors who have signed up and provided photos can drive through Eagle Point Park to see banners honoring the graduates.
“We really wanted to do something for our kids and have something to look forward to,” Kuch said.
Kuch collaborated with Wes Tharp of Pix Along the Way and Josh Eggers, director of Clinton parks and recreation.
“Mr. Kuch and my husband were talking and wanted to do something, and they came up with this,” said Amy Tharp of Pix Along the Way. “They’ve been working with Josh Eggers.”
Kuch received enough donations to pay for the banners, Tharp said. “We did not make a penny off of this either.
“We had seniors send us pictures, with permission from their photographers,” said Tharp. “Wes designed all the banners and ordered them through our photo lab.
Ace Hardware donated the posts to hang the banners on. “We asked if they could order us some, and they said they would donate them at cost,” Tharp said.
“We met with the principal of Clinton High School ... a week ago to see which part of the park might be ideal for the banners,” Eggers said Thursday. Parks and Recreation marked the buried utilities so the school can avoid them when placing stakes.
The school will place the banners, Eggers said. “We’re just kind of backseat drivers.”
“They reached out to myself, and I ran it by the city administrator, the mayor and the police chief,” Eggers said. Eagle Point Park was closed at the time. Now the park is open, “so that made things a lot easier.”
Families will drive through Eagle Point Park next Thursday and Friday from 4-7 p.m. to view the banners. A link to audio files allow families to hear about the students, their future plans and maybe a positive message from a staff member, Kuch said.
No one will be allowed out of their cars due to government restrictions.
Kuch said the district appreciates that City Administrator Matt Brooke, Mayor Scott Maddasion and Police Chief Kevin Gyrion are allowing the event. “[It’s] a neat thing to honor our students.”
The banner drive-through is meant for family and students, Kuch said. “We want to make sure that we can limit the amount of people out there.”
About 113 students signed up for the banners, and the middle school and high school have added banners to honor their retiring staff, Kuch said.