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School board discusses, votes against changes to upcoming graduation ceremony

The Albert Lea school board on Monday heard plans about the upcoming Friday graduation ceremony and discussed the possibility of increasing the ticket allotment for each student from four to six or eight. 

After much discussion, board member Angie Hoffman moved to vote on increasing the ticket allotment to six per student, and was supported by board member Jill Marin. The movement was denied in a 2-5 vote, with Marin and Hoffman being the only votes in favor. 

“This whole year has been about flexibility and change,” Marin said. “I think it would be understood that we had this planned, but now things are looking better — the numbers are looking better. It would make sense to change the footprint and use our facility to the fullest so we can have as many graduate guests as they can have.” 

Under current guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health and Department of Education, suggestions are to keep social distancing between households with masks being worn at outdoor events with more than 500 people. Those guidelines are in place until May 28 — Albert Lea’s graduation ceremony will take place a week prior. 

The current footprint has the stage facing the home section of bleachers with the graduates seated on the field and their guests seated in the stands behind them. The visiting bleachers would be used as a staging area for the seniors. Increasing the number of tickets per student would make social distancing nearly impossible and put the school district in direct opposition to the current guidelines. 

It was then suggested by Marin to use both sides of the stands for guests and have the graduates and stage at either end of the field. Funk said it was possible to use both sides, but it would also create more problems in determining who gets to sit on which side, getting people from one side of the field to the other, as well as there being an accessibility issue to the visiting stands. 

Another issue that was brought up by multiple members of the board was the logistics of making these changes less than a week before the ceremony. 

“Who is going to go through that communication with everything else that is on their plate right now?” said board member Kim Nelson. “Getting those extra tickets out and the logistics of that, that’s concerning for me, in three or four days. It took us four weeks to get those four tickets out. That’s my concern, is we’re asking staff to do something very intense … I’m also concerned we’re going to have people who get missed, and that becomes an issue as well.”

Funk said the school will work with students who may need extra tickets for other family members. 

“If it’s communicated and you need to change it, or you need six (tickets), your best effort is to call the district,” said board member Dennis Dieser.

In other action, the board: 

  • Heard a COVID-19 update from executive director of administrative services Kathy Niebuhr, in which it was reported that the district reported zero new cases last week. So far this school year the district has had 300 total cases, 66 of which have been diagnosed in the fourth quarter. 
  • Recognized licensed school nurses Mary Appleton, Lisa Dugger, Kari Osheim and Lauren Smeby for their efforts throughout the school year.  
  • Recognized Dani Bryant, administrative assistant to the high school principal, and Lisa Dugger, licensed school nurse, as the district’s employees of the month. 
  • Voted 7-0 on policy revisions to the Tobacco Free Environment, Disposition of Obsolete Equipment and Material, School Activities, Gifts to Employees, and Vending Machines policies. 


About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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