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Graduation ceremonies set for outside this weekend

By Anna Jauhola
Graduation ceremony plans are beginning to solidify, but the situation is still a bit fluid even though seniors are set to graduate this weekend.
Lancaster School and Kittson Central held emergency school board meetings, virtually over Zoom, last week to discuss options for ceremonies. Although each board decided on one of two options, those decisions may be altered before graduation.
No graduations can be held indoors due to the congregation restrictions from the state.
Kittson Central’s graduation is set for Saturday, May 23 at 3 p.m. The board met on Thursday, May 14 and chose plan B to have graduation outside in the cul-de-sac on the south side of the school. Everyone will remain in their vehicles. Only immediate family may be in the vehicle, but only the graduate and parents can exit for their portion of the ceremony.
Although this was the decision on Thursday, Superintendent Bob Jaszczak met with senior parents on Monday evening, May 18 with the alternate option to have a seated ceremony. The parents filled out a survey and Jaszczak said early Tuesday morning that the plan will remain the same — everyone will stay in their vehicles for the ceremony.
There will be a stage set up in the grassy area in the cul-de-sac where speakers will give their speeches and microphones will be sanitized and switched out in between each speaker.
The parents will present their students with diplomas and move the graduates’ tassels.
Everyone will be required to wear a mask.
The parents are hosting a parade following the event.
Should bad weather be in the forecast, Kittson Central has set May 22 at 7 p.m., May 24 at 3 p.m. and May 25 at 3 p.m. as alternate graduation dates.
“I believe firmly we can make this parking lot scenario our best bet,” Jaszczak said. “No matter what, nobody’s going to be happy with this arrangement, no matter how we look at it.”
Jaszczak sent out the tentative plan to the parents last week with the understanding there will be fine-tuning as more guidance comes from the state.
“I have to say that these kids have been amazing,” said Board Member Crisa Mortenson on Thursday, her voice choked with emotion. “They have not complained one bit. They haven’t asked for anything, they haven’t demanded anything. I think we just need to try to do what we can for them to just graduate. And the parents are prepared to do whatever they have to do.”
Lancaster School has also planned for an outdoor ceremony to take place at the Lancaster City Park on Highway 59 on Friday, May 22 at 5 p.m. In the board’s special meeting on Friday, May 15, little discussion was needed to choose between the two options presented by Superintendent Shannon Hunstad. Everyone who spoke was in favor of holding the outdoor ceremony with socially distanced lawn chairs set up in clusters for each graduate’s family.
Hunstad also presented the option of each family attending by staying inside their vehicles.
“I know the kids are really sad about not being able to be in the gymnasium,” said Kristi Steen, English teacher and mother of a graduating senior. “I just feel if we can at least be seated, I know we can do that safely.”
Before the board voted, they also heard from graduating senior Sarah Lenhart.
“I’m really hoping for Option B as well,” she said. “I’m really thankful for everyone who’s supporting the seniors and trying to help us out.”
Much like Kittson Central, Lancaster’s plan is to only allow parents of the graduating seniors to attend.
Each family group will be individually led to their seats after being questioned, temperature monitored, hands washed and wearing a mask. The graduates will be socially distanced and wait at the rear of the designated area and walk to their seats to Pomp and Circumstance, played by Julie Nordin, music teacher.
Their parents will also present their diplomas and move their tassels.
Following the ceremony, the graduates will hop in the backs of pickup trucks for a parade down a designated route.
“Ultimately, we want our community to be safe,” Hunstad said. “That’s our No. 1 deal. We want to be safe and we want people to enjoy their graduation safely.”
Tri-County High School graduation plans still aren’t set in stone as the ceremony isn’t until Sunday, May 31. Superintendent Ryan Baron did say the ceremony will be outside, but the location isn’t set.

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