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Aug. 1 graduation date stays in place

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HARTINGTON  — After quite a bit of debate at Monday night's Hartington-Newcastle School Board meeting and a poll of senior parents Tuesday and Wednesday, school administrators have decided to stick with the Aug. 1 date for graduation.

Graduation for the Class of 2020 had originally been planned for May, but those plans had to be scrapped because of COVID-19. The event was then tentatively rescheduled for Aug. 1.

Monday night School Board members debated the pros and cons of moving the event up just in case there is a resurgence of the virus and to increase the chances of more seniors participating.

“We received guidance all spring long to choose a date in late summer,” Supt. A.J. Johnson said. “Now, after discussion with Health Dept. officials, there is concern as things open up that we could see a spike.”

No decision was made Monday, but Board members instead directed Supt. Johnson to take a poll of parents to see if they prefer June 27 or Aug. 1 for graduation.

The Board was in agreement, however, on one thing — a firm date must be decided upon this week to give parents, students and staff time to prepare. The State Health Department is also waiting for the school’s decision.

That decision to keep the Aug. 1 date was made after contacting all of the parents of the graduating seniors, Johnson said.

Graduation will look quite a bit different this year.

The current state-mandated limit on gatherings allows for 25 percent of gym capacity. When floor space is factored in, the capacity of the HNS gym is about 1,300 people, which means about 325 people would be allowed in the gym, Johnson said.

Under current restrictions, each graduate will only be allowed to invite a certain number of guests to the event. Tickets would then need to be issued to all guests. Johnson said.

“This is not an unprecedented practice. In the larger schools, this happens all the time,” he said. “We’ve just never had to do that here before.”

The graduates would all have to sit six feet apart. Families would be allowed to sit together, but will have to be seated six feet from anyone else.

The new set up also means no band or chorus will be on hand to perform.