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The Hiawatha School Board voted Monday night to set high school graduation for June 28.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and Kansas’ stay home order that expired earlier this month, Gov. Laura Kelly ordered all school facilities closed and districts set into a Continuous Learning Plan that was primarily virtual.

With this came cancellation after cancellation and out-of-the-box ways of going about business within the schools. This included proms and graduation.

As the governor announced plans for reopening Kansas, her four-phase plan does not allow mass gatherings that would accommodate a graduation until later June. Many districts have postponed graduations and some have made other plans that include virtual graduations.

After gathering input from seniors, their parents and administrative staff, Superintendent Lonnie Moser proposed postponing graduation to the end of June, noting that they had a small window to be able to include students leaving for military and trade school — and to adhere to state guidelines.

On Monday night, he told board members plans the administrative team had come up with after hearing from seniors and parents, who were not in favor of a virtual type of ceremony. Initially, the district was leaning toward having graduation on the scheduled day — May 17 — and offering a service where students and families would circle through the gym one at a time to receive their diplomas and a photograph, but there would be no audience allowed. Parents and seniors asked the district to postpone, rather than offer this type of graduation.

Moser told the board members that graduation would happen at the normal time — which would be 2 p.m. — but it would have to be within the state guidelines at that time. Currently, Phase 4 proposes allowing mass gatherings over 90 people starting after June 15 for a “phase out” of social distancing guidelines and a plan to get back to normal life.

But, Moser said, if those phases change or the governor delays them, then that could potentially leave a normal type of graduation out of the question. Either way, he said, he would like to have graduation on that day, whether traditional or something different.

“We don’t want to push it back a second time,” he said.

The board voted unanimously to move graduation to June 28 and also heard from HMS Principal Kylie Gatz about eighth grade recognition.

Gatz told the board members that she has planned a pre-recorded ceremony that will include submitted photos and recognitions. Rainbow Communications has agreed to air the services on their local channel and the video will also be sent to students along with certificates and medals.

Baccalaureate services — traditionally planned by the Hiawatha Ministerial Alliance — were set for Wednesday, May 13, but in a non-traditional way.

Participating ministers submitted their presentations, along with music selections to KNZA and these will broadcast at 7 p.m. on May 13 at 103.9 in an efffort to recognize seniors. It will also be aired later on Rainbow and avalable on YouTube.

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