Finally, some good news for Champaign Unit 4 seniors and their families.
Plans are in the works for in-person, outdoor graduation ceremonies so that the Class of 2021 – which has missed so many other rites of passage – can celebrate this milestone moment together.
In a year when remote learning was the norm, and when students had limited in-person learning opportunities due to COVID-19 mitigations, the idea of a “normal” graduation ceremony for Central High School and Centennial High School students was embraced by school board members and administrators alike at Monday’s Champaign Unit 4 Schools Board of Education meeting.
According to preliminary plans presented by assistant superintendent Laura Taylor, both high schools will hold graduation ceremonies on Tuesday, May 25 at Tommy Stewart Field, the football stadium behind Centennial High School.
Many details remain unknown; specific plans regarding implementation of COVID safety protocols will be announced at a later date, and may be subject to Champaign Urbana Public Health District approval.
“I’m thrilled to hear that we’re doing it outside and as safely as possible, that’s awesome,” said board member Kathy Shannon, parent of a child who graduated in the Class of 2020.
Central High School’s graduation will take place at 4:00pm on May 25, while Centennial’s graduation will be at 8:00pm. The time between the two ceremonies is one of the safety procedures being put in place.
The events will be short – no more than one hour – but they will allow families to see their graduate “walk” in a ceremony that is as “normal” as possible, under the circumstances.
Few local high schools have released information on graduation ceremonies for the class of 2021, but many are anticipated to adopt plans for outdoor venues.
Last year, virtual graduations for Centennial and Central High Schools were streamed in place of in-person ceremonies.
The board also discussed the idea that last year’s graduates might have the opportunity to take photos at the staging, approximating what their experience might have been. Board member Shannon added input that she didn’t think her student would have any desire to recreate it.
Taylor said she would solicit feedback via building principals to see if there is a way to honor the class of 2020.
Monday’s report did not provide specifics regarding tickets or number of attendees that will be allowed per student. No rain date was established.
Information about a ceremony for Novak Academy students has not yet been released.
According to Taylor’s report, the school district will return to its traditional graduation ceremony locations in 2022 – Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (Central) and State Farm Center (Centennial). Graduation that year will take place on Tuesday, May 24.
In 2020, the Illinois Department of Public Health issued very specific guidance to schools about graduation ceremonies, but has not yet updated that information for 2021.