High schools plan in-person graduation ceremonies to bring normalcy during COVID-19

ELMHURST, Ill. (WLS) -- Several Illinois high schools are planning in-person graduation ceremonies for seniors who will be completing high school this year.

The stadium at York High School is busy with football and other sports in recent days.

Senior Hayden Reiner plays his last game at the school tomorrow., but his parents will watch him cross the stage for graduation next month.

"I'm going to feel a great sense of accomplishment for him, and just a feeling after this very tough year, they were able to have a little bit of normalcy at the end," said Tara Renier, Hayden's mother.

York will split the graduating class in half with two ceremonies.

"Allows us to bring in, you know, parents in and family members in," said Shahe Bagdasarianm York High School principal.

A year ago in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic era, the principal at Huntley High School brought graduation to the homes of seniors, handing them diplomas with makeshift ceremonies in their driveways. This year, the school is splitting the more than 700 graduates into three groups for in-person ceremonies at the school stadium.

"The traditional ceremony of each graduate being able to walk across the stage and receive their diploma is very meaning and powerful," said Scott Rowe, District 158 superintendent.

New Trier High School is moving to an even bigger stadium for their graduation, taking over Soldier Field. Elgin's District U-46 is planning a drive-in ceremony in the parking lot at the NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates. However, the ceremony may move to indoors, bringing some normalcy to a school year that has been anything but.

"We have now, just recently, the opportunity to move those ceremonies indoors potentially, and so we're considering that right now. No final decisions have been made," said Tony Sanders, District U-46 superintendent.

In the meantime, football stadiums are getting a lot of use not only for graduation ceremonies but prom for schools like York. It is another effort to bring as much normalcy as possible to the end of high school.
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