VIENNA (WSIL) -- School officials are pleased with the Illinois State Board of Education for once again allowing in-person high school graduation ceremonies that follow social distancing.
Vienna Superintendent Joshua Stafford says he and other staff have made a plan so high school seniors and their parents can remember the special day, but those plans came close to not happening at all.
On April 29, ISBE announced a directive prohibiting in-person ceremonies of any kind due to COVID-19 concerns.
According to Stafford, that decision may have been difficult for the state to uphold in the first place.
"Really there was a lot of debate, and I don't think it's the state board's fault," he explains. "But a lot of debate around whether or not the Illinois State Board of Education had legal authority to issue that directive."
Stafford says decisions like that are usually up to each individual school district.
Many schools shared their feedback with ISBE, which reversed its decision on May 2, saying in-person ceremonies can take place as long as safety precautions are taken.
Those include maintaining social distancing, no shaking of hands or handing a graduate their diploma and wearing a mask. If it's a drive-thru ceremony, only members of the same household can be the same vehicle together.
Stafford says Vienna will hold a drive-thru ceremony on May 15th, which is the original date before stay-at-home orders were issued. This way all students can be highlighted for their achievements.
"Of course one of the big reasons that we want to move forward with this date is because we have students that are leaving for military service on May 23rd and so us delaying a graduation really denies them the opportunity to be recognized," he explains. "We don't want to deny any of our students the opportunity to be recognized."
Stafford says the district has worked with the city and law enforcement to map out a graduation parade route.
Students will then walk across a stage outside the school to receive their diploma and get their individual photo taken by a professional.
Stafford adds the ceremony will be streamed on Facebook and YouTube, so family and friends from afar can watch too.