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Graduation May 17 and July 19

Beef Days Sunday pegged for traditional graduation

SOLON– There will be two graduation ceremonies for Solon High School’s seniors.
A modified event will take place as originally scheduled, Sunday, May 17, in the Solon High School (SHS) parking lot.
The second, a traditional graduation ceremony, is set for Sunday, July 19, at 2 p.m.
The Solon Community School District (SCSD) Board of Education is expected to approve the plan at a special meeting May 7.
“I’ve been meeting with our seniors and their parents every week just trying to keep them in the loop,” SHS Principal Zach Wigle said. “This has been really difficult for a lot of the parents as well as some of our kids.”
Based on the feedback, he said, it was apparent what most preferred.
“It was really evident that they wanted, if at all possible, a traditional live ceremony, so we really pushed it back as far as we possibly could,” he observed.
But the district still wanted to celebrate and highlight the seniors in some capacity on May 17, he added.
As a result, each senior will be assigned an SHS parking space and parents and the community will have an opportunity to drive through the parking lot to wave and congratulate them.
It’s optional, Wigle said, but students will be able to wear their caps and gowns and take photos as long as they follow safety guidelines.
“Cars will be driving through the parking lot seeing the graduates– they’ll either be on their cars or next to their cars– and they’ll step out of their cars and people can drive by and see them,” he explained.
The event will likely be staged with well-wishers beginning at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area and then parading down Racine Avenue to 5th Street, entering the SHS lot on the west side and exiting to the east, he said.
More specific information will be released prior to the event, he added.
The July 19 ceremony could potentially be held outside to accommodate social distancing, Wigle noted.
“We’ll figure that out as we get there,” he said. “It’ll be a flexible kind of approach with the hope that we can have a traditional ceremony.”
The structure of the July 19 graduation event will be determined by current restrictions put in place by Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health, noted SCSD Superintendent Davis Eidahl.
“If we are capped at 250, it will be a parents-only ceremony,” he wrote in an email. “We are also going to be flexible with the venue. If it's a small crowd we will use the Center For the Arts or Spartan Stadium, allowing us to spread out.”
Regardless of the traditional events, Eidahl said, a company was hired to create a virtual graduation featuring senior speeches, awards and pictures that every senior will receive as a video.
“We have tried to plan for every scenario and make graduation 2020 memorable for our seniors,” he added.
SCSD board members discussed the possibilities for graduation at an April 16 meeting, prior to the governor’s decision to keep kids out of the classrooms for the remainder of the school year.
Eidahl informed board members on Wigle’s virtual meetings with seniors and their parents, and outlined the options being considered for ceremonies.
The Sunday following Beef Days was seen as a possible date when a lot of people would be back in town for the celebration, he said.
Board members were alerted a special meeting might be required.
“So open your ears out in the community,” Eidahl said. “Because we want to do this right.”
Board member Jami Wolf suggested most seniors would want to see their friends.
“For a lot of the kids, graduation means the last time all together,” she noted.
But Board President Tim Brown warned large gatherings could be restricted through the summer.
“I don’t think we’re going to fill the gym any time soon,” he said.
After being provided different ideas for graduation, the clear sentiment of senior parents was for a traditional event, Eidahl noted in his email.
May 17 was not possible, he said, so before determining an alternative date, the district consulted Johnson County Public Health Director Dave Koch.
“He told us that scheduling a June date was highly optimistic and indicated it was probably too early,” Eidahl reported. “We then decided to push it back as far back as possible to have the greatest chance of having a traditional graduation event. July 19 was picked as the date, hoping that our students will still be in Solon, yet restrictions would be lifted.”
Wigle said he shared the commencement plans with parents and seniors May 1.
A team of high school staff members and members of a parent group are preparing packages containing the diploma, cap and gown and awards for each senior, he said.
Curbside pickup is scheduled for May 14, which would have been seniors’ last day in school.
Feedback from parents has been positive, he reported. They appreciate the amount of work teachers are putting in, as well the communication staff had with the students.
The district is two weeks into required learning for the high school level, he said.
He’s received comments from 100 students, and his team will sift through the responses and make holistic tweaks to the programming in the coming week.
Shifting the focus from a grade to completing work with notes from teachers has been a mind shift for everyone, he observed.
“From my seat, I kind of like it because it takes the importance off the grade and puts it more on the learning process,” he said.
Participation has been pretty positive and Wigle hopes to report on the virtual learning experience at the regular May school board meeting.