Warrick County commencement exercises will be held virtually as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Warrick County School Corporation announced last week that commencement ceremonies will be held virtually rather than in person at the corporation’s three high schools and the Warrick Education Center. Superintendent Brad Schneider announced the decision to air a virtual commencement on local T.V. in a letter to the Class of 2020 and their parents on Tuesday, May 5.

“The close of the 2020 school year has been unique and challenging for all of us,” Schneider stated in his letter. “COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives, but maybe none more than our seniors.”

Schneider said the corporation has and will continue to follow orders and guidance regarding the maintenance of health and well-being of students, staff and the community. He said current guidelines prevent the corporation from moving forward with plans for traditional commencement ceremonies.

“In meetings with the four High School principals we have determined that current guidelines, specifically the directive from the Indiana Department of Education that effectively cancels all school events until at least June 30, require us to consider alternate plans to celebrate the Class of 2020,” he said in the letter. “It is clear that our traditional commencement exercise will not meet the current guidelines. It is also highly unlikely that our traditional commencement exercise would be allowed, even past the June 30 date.”

As a result, the corporation will partner with WEHT 25, a local television station, to provide a virtual commencement exercise for each high school, Schneider said. The virtual commencement ceremonies will include student speeches, a previous recording of graduates being called and receiving their diplomas on stage and a proclamation naming them graduates, according to Schneider’s letter.

“We understand this virtual commencement will not satisfy everyone, but we do want to provide a lasting memory for the Class of 2020 as they begin their new journey while doing so in a way that no one’s health and well-being is compromised,” he stated in the letter.

Schneider followed with a second letter on Wednesday, May 6, also addressed to the Class of 2020 and parents. Schneider said the decision to hold virtual commencement exercises was not one taken lightly.

“Due to COVID-19, we understand that the Class of 2020 has missed out on a number of events that are very important to them and their family,” he said in the second letter. “We do not want commencement to be another event they miss if at all possible.”

Schneider noted in the second letter that the corporation will move forward with the plan and will consider the possibility of hosting traditional ceremonies later in the year for each of the schools, provided events that allow large group gatherings are permitted under the Governor’s order and any other directives issued by the federal and state government, the Indiana Department of Education and our local and state health departments.

“We will continue to monitor the situation, follow all guidelines and directives to keep our students, staff and community safe. We will continue to provide that information as it is available,” he said in the second letter. “The Warrick County School Corporation understands this pandemic is a serious health issue and we will continue to take all necessary steps to keep our students, staff and communities safe.”

Boonville High School Principal Mike Whitten said there is still a possibility that there could be a traditional commencement later, but that doesn’t mean administrators want to just wait until then to do something for this year’s seniors. He said students have had to cope with a lot of uncertainty, but the virtual commencement gives seniors something amidst a spring without prom and other activities.

“The biggest part of it is that the kids haven’t had any certainty of anything for so long. For seven to eight weeks here they’ve just not known anything that was going on,” he said. “We wanted to give them something to hold on to and to be able to look forward to.”

Whitten said he knows there will be some that think the corporation is wrong in making the decision to hold virtual commencement exercises, but he believes it would be better to be too cautious than to risk the health of graduates, staff, families or anyone in the community.

“The absolute last thing we would want would be to hold an event and somebody end up being sick or worse,” he said. “Some people probably feel like it’s being a little too cautious. If you’re going to err, you’re going to err on the side of caution.”

The virtual ceremonies are scheduled to air on Saturday, May 30, with the time to be determined. Schools have sent information for graduates and parents regarding the plans to pre-record the graduates walking across the stage and opportunities to order photos.

For information, visit the corporation at warrick.k12.in.us or check out the schools on social media.

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