Virtual graduations planned in Northwest suburbs, though in-person events still possible

  • While John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights and other schools in the Northwest suburbs won't be able to hold in-person graduation ceremonies at the same time this year, plans are in the works for virtual celebrations.

      While John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights and other schools in the Northwest suburbs won't be able to hold in-person graduation ceremonies at the same time this year, plans are in the works for virtual celebrations. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, May 2019

 
 
Updated 4/20/2020 5:55 PM

While still holding out hope for in-person graduation ceremonies this summer, Northwest suburban high schools have begun making preparations for virtual commencement exercises.

Announcements from school district superintendents and principals started going out over the weekend and continued Monday, following Gov. J.B. Pritzker's announcement Friday to keep schools closed the remainder of the academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Northwest Suburban High School District 214 is planning a virtual commencement ceremony for each of its six high schools on Wednesday, May 20.

Superintendent Dave Schuler said the district has hired a media production company to produce videos for the digital ceremonies, and principals and school staff will be asking students to share pictures and videos for school-specific montages in the coming days.

But if the state allows large gatherings in June, July or August, Schuler said in-person graduations -- complete with caps and gowns on football fields -- will occur. Schuler also indicated there's still a chance for some type of special event to recognize seniors as late as Thanksgiving, and he also held out hope for a senior barbecue.

Each graduating senior also is getting a personalized, school-specific yard sign, Schuler added.

"We fully recognize our obligation to do well by each Class of 2020 graduating senior in our district, and it's our commitment to do just that," Schuler wrote in a letter to families.

On Monday, Barrington High School Principal Steve McWilliams said a virtual graduation is an option, in lieu of what was a planned commencement Friday, May 29, at Willow Creek Community Church. But McWilliams said the school is awaiting further guidance from the state about social distancing and crowd-size limitations.

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The Saturday, May 16 senior prom is canceled, he said, but a committee of administrators and parents has formed to see if the event can be rescheduled in July or August. If not, he suggested it could be part of next fall's Homecoming, or even winter break.

"I can't emphasize this enough: once we know what the expectations are, what the standards are, we are going to do our very best to celebrate you, the senior class," McWilliams told students in a YouTube video Monday afternoon.

Barrington students will be able to pick up caps and gowns, yearbooks, and contents from their lockers starting May 18, he added.

Maine Township High School District 207 announced Monday that a virtual graduation is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, May 17, for all three of its schools. But Superintendent Ken Wallace also said Sunday, Aug. 2, is being held as a possible in-person graduation date. If state and federal health guidelines don't permit it, a backup date is being considered for the fall, he said.

It's still possible that in-person proms could occur the last weekend of July, along with other events like senior breakfasts, Wallace said.

District 207 will also release a virtual senior honors night ceremony recording at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 13.

Palatine-Schaumburg Township High School District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates said an announcement about graduations and proms at the district's five schools would be made Tuesday.

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