ROBERT MAGOBET

Chanute High School has theoretically made a decision on how and when graduation will take place.

As of right now, a regular senior graduation will take place at 7 pm on June 19 at the Chanute Community Sports Complex. The choice was made last week after CHS administrators used SwiftReach to send out a survey to all parents and seniors, who overwhelmingly voted for a typical-style graduation. More than 85 percent voted for the outdoor commemoration of students, while the other 15 percent was a combination of a drive-through graduation on May 23 and a typical graduation in July. 

Parents last week divulged their interest in the weekly Zoom question-and-answer session. Those who couldn’t get the survey to work on their phone emailed CHS Principal Brian Campbell directly. All of those requests added on to the majority of people wishing for their children to have a regular graduation.

Chanute High School salutatorian and future Harvard student Jillian Vogel is a part of the majority who would very much like to have the event.

“The idea of a traditional graduation in itself is so exciting,” Vogel said. “My class has been robbed of so many things, and while this wasn’t the original plan, I think it provides an amazing opportunity for us to gather as a class before we go our separate ways. To others, it may seem a pointless gesture, but for me and most members of my class, it symbolizes how hard we have worked and what we’ve overcome, especially in the wake of the coronavirus.”

But the notion of having a standard graduation is contingent upon Kansas’ six-week plan of reopening the state. In late April, Governor Laura Kelly issued the strategy with plans of wide-scale testing capabilities to identify those who have been infected with COVID-19 before unknowingly spreading the novel coronavirus, including recruiting and training 400 workers in a contact tracing program.

With all phases lasting a minimum of 14 days – these phases could be extended if the virus unexpectedly spreads – the graduation will be predicated upon the third phase, which starts June. 1 at the earliest and includes Kansas allowing outdoor and indoor venues with a capacity of 2,000 people or greater to reopen. Graduations would be acceptable in the third phase, and a complete lifting of state restrictions could happen by June 15 at the earliest.

“We think if that fully goes into effect June 15, then June 19 is that first weekend afterwards, trying to avoid a possible second wave of trying to take advantage of if she releases us on the 15th, and we’re going to go as quickly as possible at that point,” Campbell said. “The 15th was that magical date the last time the governor spoke. It was June 15.”

While June 15 might be a soft date when taking into consideration the boxes that need to be checked for restrictions to be lifted, the possibility of having a real graduation for CHS students is still very important to Campbell.

“You’ve got to look at it from a couple of different perspectives. If you are a parent of the senior class, then it becomes unbelievably important for you,” Campbell said. “If you don’t have a kid in the senior class, then it’s not as important. Kids can probably go either way. But the big thing is graduation is mainly for parents anyway. And so for parents it means a ton to them for their kid to walk across the stage. We’ve got some of them that will be the first generation to walk across that stage. We’ve got some that have busted their butt at working really hard and this is just that milestone that they have been working towards. If we would take that away, I think it would be unfair to them. And it’s just that closure you have for high school.”

Still, if true closure isn’t feasible because the governor extends restrictions, Campbell will survey once more to gauge interest in the drive-by graduation on June 19. If Kelly puts out a new set of dates for lifting bans, then Campbell and his staff will work towards those dates for a live graduation. 

Campbell said he is looking into having caps and gowns, yearbooks and senior planners picked up by parents in front of the school next week. But those plans have to be approved by the USD 413 board office and county health department. If approved, those parents can expect notifications through SwiftReach and CHS’ social media page.

“I’m just glad that we’re going to honor the kids like they deserve to be honored, so I’m excited,” Campbell continued. “I know it’s a little bit later than what everybody wants, but I am excited to get this done. The opportunity is there and I hope that it remains.”

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