Chalk up the Western Dubuque High School commencement ceremony last weekend as one more event affected by COVID-19.
District officials were forced to change the scheduled exercise June 27 from an in-person ceremony at the high school football field to a drive-up ceremony after it was learned a student who attended the rehearsal ceremony the day before tested positive.
Students and their families were made aware of the change of plans in a notification sent by the district later that same day. It said, “After careful consideration and in the best interest of our students, families, and the community, we have decided to cancel the traditional graduation ceremony.”
Instead, graduates were invited to drive to the high school between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon to receive his or her diploma. District officials asked for one car per student to drive to the activities entrance of the high school to pick up his or her diploma, then step outside to snap a photo or two.
Western Dubuque High School Principal Jacob Feldmann said the decision to cancel the original plans was made with input from several sources. “Our decision was made from information from the Dubuque County Public Health, our school board and superintendent as well as our administrative team. It was a decision that was made as to what was best to protect everyone.”
Feldmann said the cars took longer to go through the line than he expected, but he said that was fine. “Parents and grandparents were coming out of the cars to get pictures with their graduate in front of our activity entrance. This was an opportunity for some closure for our graduates and their families and I wasn’t going to take that away from them. So it took a bit longer than I anticipated.”
Feldmann said the majority of families were understanding of the sudden change of plans. “They know it was a tough decision on short notice, but many were grateful we gave students a chance to come, receive their diploma and get some pictures with family. There are a lot of unknowns that come with this virus.”
Feldmann said that after a spring in which he hoped a prom and a traditional commencement exercise might occur, he was relieved graduates could at least receive their diplomas.
“This was an opportunity to at least hand diplomas to them. Given the situation, I’d say it was very successful for us. It was a very nice day and it was some closure for our 2020 graduates.”
Officials said anyone not attending the drive-up event would have the diploma mailed to them. Also, a video of the event was being created and is expected to be available in July.