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Glenville-Emmons holds alternative graduation ceremony

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact local communities, many area high schools decided to postpone their graduation ceremonies to later into the summer. Glenville-Emmons, however, decided to stay committed to their original date and held its ceremony Friday night.

The 10 graduating seniors from Glenville-Emmons walked across a stage set up in the high school’s parking lot, while their friends and families watched from inside their vehicles. Graduates arrived with their families and parked in their own designated parking spot. High school Principal Jeff Tietje and Superintendent Brian Shanks conducted the ceremony from opposite ends of the 53-foot trailer, which was donated for use by Crossroads Trailer.

“Picture a drive-in movie style,” Tieije said. “We (did) it in our parking lot and obviously the graduates and their families need to stay in their vehicle. We (had) spots marked off so seniors and their families (pulled) into their designated spot and (could) watch from there.”

Tietje said the school had a low-range FM radio transmitter that allowed the ceremony to be heard on 88.1 for about a two block radius around the school.

As students’ names were called one at a time, they could exit their vehicle, walk across the stage, pick up their diploma and have their picture taken before returning to their vehicle and the next student would get their turn.

According to Tietje, the faculty had to eliminate many of the elements of a normal graduation ceremony. He said there would be no hand shakes with the students and no presenters that would normally hand out the diplomas and scholarships.

“We feel bad,” Tietje said. “It would be nice to shake the graduates’ hand and be in their photos with them. But to play it safe, we’re going to avoid that part of it.”

Originally, Glenville-Emmons made plans to have their graduation ceremony on the football field and seat families at proper social distancing spaces in the stands. However, about two weeks before graduation day, they were informed they could not do that.

“The biggest challenge was not knowing what we could and couldn’t do,” Tietje said. “You try to operate within the guidelines that were set forth. So you create a plan, and a lot of schools started leaning towards having it on the football field. We had the seating, we had the PA system, we had the space to keep everybody spread out.

“Then word came out that, no we couldn’t do that. So very quickly, within a two-weeks span we had to scrap plans and come up with a new one that fit in the guidelines.”

NRHEG, Alden-Conger and United South Central have also kept their original graduation dates and will hold their ceremonies on May 31 and June 5 and 6, respectively. Albert Lea, Lake Mills, and Northwood-Kensett postponed their ceremonies to later in the summer. Albert Lea moved their date to July 24, Northwood-Kensett and Lake Mills postponed their ceremonies to June 28.


About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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