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Class of 2020 will pick up diplomas Sunday, formal ceremonies to come at a later date

By James Grob,

Charles City High School Principal Bryan Jurrens is calling it a “pseudo-graduation.”

“This is our way to get them their diplomas, awards and everything, so they have them on graduation day,” Jurrens said. “Then later, we’ll do the formal ceremony.”

Seniors graduating from CCHS will receive their diplomas, athletic awards and get photos taken in their caps and gowns on Sunday. That evening, there will be a drive-in movie in the CCHS parking lot, with all seniors and their families invited to attend.

Class of 2020 will pick up diplomas Sunday, formal ceremonies to come at a later date
Charles City High School logo

Friday (tonight) from 5 to 5:45 p.m., there will be a drive-thru barbecue at the high school, where graduating seniors can receive a meal prepared by the “high school family.” It’s all part of ways to honor the grads in lieu of a formal ceremony, which is out of the question at this time.

“We’ll still have graduation, whenever we can — if we have to kick it back to September or October, we’ll do it,” Jurrens said. “We do have some kids who are going off to basic training, and we need to get them their diplomas right away.”

Since the COVID-19 situation first caused classes to be shut down in March — and subsequently caused the rest of the school year to be canceled in April — Jurrens has repeatedly stated that he is determined to have formal graduation ceremonies for the CCHS Class of 2020.

“This is important, it’s a big accomplishment that needs to be celebrated,” he said. “They work hard for many years in order to earn the right to walk across that stage, and we’ll have them do it.”

When exactly that formal ceremony will be remains in question.

“Ultimately we need the nod from county health. They’re the experts on that,” Jurrens said. “It could be in a month, or it could be in several months. Unfortunately, we just don’t know.”

Jurrens said that more than 1,000 people attended graduation ceremonies last year, and it will take some time before the district is allowed to let 1,000 people gather again in one place.

In the meantime, the “pseudo-graduation” ceremony is slated to run from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Charles City High School. Students will be spaced out over a seven-hour period, with last names beginning with the letters A-C from noon to 1 p.m., D-F from 1-2 p.m., G-H from 2-3 p.m., I-M from 3-4 p.m., N-Q from 4-5 p.m., R-S from 5-6 p.m. and T-Z from 6-7 p.m.

Seniors will be welcome to bring their immediate family (parents/guardians and siblings) as they will also be able to take a picture with their graduate.

“We were hoping to do it outside, but the weather isn’t looking great, so we have an indoor location,” Jurrens said.

Social distancing protocols will be followed, and those present to congratulate the students will be Jurrens, Assistant Principal Larry Wolfe, Superintendent Mike Fisher and CCHS administrative assistant Sarah Vanderwerf.

Students are also urged to bring back their Chromebooks, textbooks, uniforms, and anything that belongs to the school during this time.

Anyone who participates in the drive-in movie Sunday night will be asked to follow all COVID-19 restrictions and ensure that only one household is present in a vehicle. They are asked to stay in their vehicles throughout the movie.

“We can broadcast that right to the cars, so people won’t even have to leave their cars,” Jurrens said. “The intent is to give them a little bit of something fun, because they’ve really missed out this year.”

The school will not be able to open up a restroom during the movie, and will inform students if the movie time is moved due to weather.

Iowa BIG North has a mobile drive-in theater in its possession that will be used. Jurrens said seniors were asked what movie they would like to see, although he wouldn’t reveal the title, as he still needs to check on copyright requirements.

“They made an excellent choice, we just need to make sure it fits under our licensing agreement,” he said.

A group informally known as “the grilling crew” at the high school will prepare the food tonight. The meat was donated by local establishments, as was water, chips and other provisions. Jurrens said the high school staff and parents took charge of the meal.

Meals will be distributed in the same safe manner as food service meals. Graduates should wear their caps and senior T-shirts, as a photo will be take of each student as he or she drives through, Jurrens said.

Throughout this week T-shirts, Comet cards and mugs have been distributed to graduating seniors, and the uplighting on the softball and baseball diamonds has been Comet Orange in honor of the graduates. The entire softball and baseball diamonds are being lit up for 20 minutes and 20 seconds each night this week at at 8:30 p.m. to honor the graduating class of 2020. Friday, the lights at Comet Field and scoreboard will also be illuminated.

Signs were placed Monday around the perimeter of Central Park for each senior. They will stay in Central Park until Monday, May 25, when alumni from the Class of 2020 can pick up their signs to keep for themselves.