MCSD cancels prom, plans for safe graduation

A new sign and image of the MCSD mascot, the Panther, was completed on the front of the new high school entrance last week. The school chose to cancel prom, but found a way to offer a safe graduation ceremony on the football field. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Jones County, the Monticello Community School District made the tough decision to cancel prom and the Class of 2020 downtown senior parade.

     The grand march, prom, and post prom were all postponed and rescheduled for July 16.

     The senior parade along First Street was supposed to take place the evening of July 17.

     MCSD Superintendent Dr. Brian Jaeger and High School Principal Joan Young spoke with Jones County Public Health on guidance in making the ultimate decision to cancel both events.

     “They said don’t do it,” Jaeger said, plain and simple. “There’s too much of a chance for exposure; their recommendations were pretty clear.”

     Jaeger made the formal announcement on July 7 in a video that was posted to the district’s Facebook page.

     “Even though we delayed it and tried to find a good time to do it, our situation in our community does not look like it’s getting better,” he said in his video. “If you know what a high school dance looks like, we don’t see a scenario to hold prom that wouldn’t look like a high school dance. We can’t maintain the type of safety that we think we need.”

     Jenna Lovaas, JCPH coordinator, acknowledged “the current situation in the county” concerning a rise in COVID-19 cases. She said the school was already leaning toward not having prom anyway.

     “I think our discussion fully solidified that decision and was something I definitely was in agreement with,” she said. “We did not feel there was a realistic way to have a ‘socially distanced’ prom.”

     Jaeger said while the decision to even have prom was a long shot, it was a hard decision to make to cancel it.

     “We did not want to cancel,” he said regrettably.

     Over the weekend, the Post Prom Committee posted an update via Facebook regarding prizes for Monticello juniors and seniors only. Those who paid for a t-shirt can pick it up, along with your prize, and Superior Appliance on Sunday, July 19, from 2-3 p.m. You are asked to use the back door for entrance.

     Concerning the senior parade, Lovaas said while there were some ideas tossed out in terms of mitigating the risk of spreading the virus, “there would still be a lot of things out of their control that would increase the risk of virus transmission.”

     Jaeger clarified that there was no way to enforce keeping people in their cars, not congregating on the sidewalks.

     “We did not want to create a public gathering,” he said, noting that now is not the time to host “big events that could lead to the spread of coronavirus.”

     However, Graduation Part 2, which consists of the formal cap-and-gown ceremony, will take place on Sunday, July 19, at 7 p.m. on the football field.

     “We think we have this one worked out,” Jaeger said, following the social distancing guidelines.

     Seniors and their eight guests will be seated on the field/track. No one will be in the stands/bleachers; those will be off limits.

     “We will not be allowing other guests to come into the stands or around the area,” Jaeger said of keeping the general public away at that time. “We really don’t want people coming in and observing graduation.”

     Each senior will approach the stage, walk across to receive his/her diploma, pose for pictures, and then return to their seat.

     Public Health felt the school was able to host a successful graduation ceremony outdoors where they can control the scenario. “We discussed keeping family ‘pods’ at least 6 feet apart,” suggested Lovaas. JCPH also recommends attendees wear facemasks.

     “This is a pretty good scenario,” commented Jaeger of the school’s plan. “It meets all of the requirements. We’ll see what the next week brings, but we’re real hopeful.”

     He added that the school really wanted to have the ceremony to present the seniors with the diplomas, solidifying their completion of high school. The valedictorians and salutatorian will also be recognized.

     “Pomp and Circumstance” will be played at the beginning of the ceremony; however, the seniors will not march onto the field together during the song, so as not to create a crowd.

     The ceremony is expected to last 40-45 minutes. Staff and student speeches were previously given virtually back in May.

     Many have asked as to whether the school will have a live feed of the graduation ceremony for the public to view. Jaeger said unless individual families offer it themselves on their own devices, the school will not be recording the event.


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