School District Superintendent Frustrated by Cancellation of Illinois' In-Person Graduations

State officials said Saturday in-person graduation ceremonies were canceled and encouraged virtual celebrations

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The superintendent of a West Central Illinois expressed disappointment following the Illinois State Board of Education's decision to cancel in-person graduation ceremonies statewide because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The IBOE issued a statement Friday in which it encouraged school districts honor graduates virtually, but acknowledged that virtual events may not be possible in all situations. Drive-in, drive-through and individualized ceremonies are permitted - as long as they abide by specific IBOE criteria and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Superintendent John Asplund of Galesburg Community School District 205 told WGIL radio that the district planned to hold an in-person ceremony prior to the state board's order and would still like to have one once ceremonies are permitted.

"Those things can change, and we’re trying to remain as flexible as we can and hold out hope that we can do something for our graduates this year," he said in the radio interview. "If not, we’re still committed to do something."

While Asplund questioned if the ISBOE made its decision too soon, citing that Gov. Pritzker's stay-at-home order was extended through the end of May, not June, when graduations typically take place.

Asplund added that the school district surveyed parents and students and approximately 85% of respondents stated they'd prefer to have an in-person ceremony.

Even though the district might not agree with decision, he said they'll do whatever they have to do, legally.

"Every graduate looks forward to having their day where they can go and have that moment where they say goodbye to the old and welcome in the new, and they’re really not being given that closure, obviously for good reason right now," Asplund said. "We would love to be able to find some way to give them an opportunity to do that."

When asked about the school districts' previous graduation ceremony plans Sunday, Pritzker referred back to the state board's guidance.

"I mean, it is a a sad fact that many seniors, high school and college seniors, you know, aren't going to be able to have a usual graduation," he said. "So we want something special for everybody."

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