Burlington Central graduates celebrate in Sears Centre parking lot
Friends Olivia Angvick and Emily Stark paused for quick pictures in the parking lot of the Sears Centre before the start of the Burlington Central High School graduation ceremony Saturday.
Balancing a cellphone on a car bumper, they used the self-timer function on the phone's camera to take photos of themselves with the Hoffman Estates arena in the background.
Although their graduation ceremony was taking place nearly two months later than expected, and in a parking lot, both said they were looking forward to the ceremony. Not only did they miss out on the fourth quarter of their senior years, but they also didn't have their final track season nor senior prom.
"I think it's kind of like closure for it," Angvick said. "I'm just really proud of our class for what we've been through, and having Central do this for us, it's really special."
School District 301 Superintendent Todd Stirn said the school's graduation had been originally scheduled for May at the Convocation Center at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, then was rescheduled to early August. When it became clear that a ceremony could not be held there while maintaining proper social-distancing guidelines, a decision was made to have the graduation ceremony at the Sears Centre on Saturday.
"We still wanted to give as much normalcy as we could to the graduating class, so that everyone could participate," Stirn said. "This is the best option we could have, where all kids get to cross the stage, graduate with their peers, and hear all the speeches."
With the exception of those that spoke onstage, students remained in their cars with their families. When prompted, they lined up near the stage, and when their name was called they walked across to receive their diploma.
They were able to have their individual photo taken by a professional photographer without their face mask in place.
Central Principal Chris Testone said the students made it clear that they wanted to have an in-person ceremony. Approximately 80% of the class of 280 students in the class were present, he said.
Stirn said that members of the Class of 2020 have faced adversity almost since birth -- mentioning 9/11, the housing market crash and ensuing recession, and now a global pandemic.
"If there's any class that's ever persevered, it's this one," Stirn said.