The Madison School District will hold 13 in-person graduation ceremonies this spring after canceling plans last year due to the pandemic, and most will take place at outdoor venues to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re very excited in the fact that we’ll be able to celebrate our graduating seniors in person,” Marvin Pryor, co-chief of schools for secondary education, said during a Madison School Board meeting Monday.
Superintendent Carlton Jenkins and district staff were determined to hold in-person ceremonies for this year’s graduating seniors and so they developed a plan to do so and ran it past local health officials, Pryor said.
Current graduation plans are subject to change based on public health orders and spread of COVID-19 variants within the community.
“We hope everything remains the same so that we can have this festive celebration for all of our seniors,” Pryor said.
According to Public Health Madison and Dane County’s latest order, which takes effect Wednesday, COVID-19 case numbers have fluctuated slightly since the end of February, but overall the county appears to be in a period of sustained stability.
The state’s stability as neighboring states are seeing increasing case rates boosted by the more transmissible B117 variant is promising, according to the agency’s order.
The current COVID-19 case count is 9 out of 100,000 people in Dane County and 45.2% of residents have been fully vaccinated. The city-county health department estimates the county could reach herd immunity if between 60% and 90% of residents become fully vaccinated.
Capital High and Malcolm Shabazz City High School will each hold one indoor ceremony June 8 at Monona Terrace. East High School will hold two outdoor ceremonies June 11 at Breese Stevens Field and West High School will hold four outdoor ceremonies June 11 at Mansfield Stadium. La Follette High School will hold two outdoor ceremonies on June 12 at Lussier Field and Memorial High School will hold three outdoor ceremonies at Mansfield Stadium.
The ceremonies will also be livestreamed.
According to the city-county health department order, indoor gatherings where food or drink isn’t served must be limited to 500 people and take place in a space where 6 feet of distance between households can occur. There’s no cap on attendees for outdoor gatherings but households must maintain 6 feet of distance.
Also on Monday, the Madison School District allowed middle and high school students to opt back into in-person learning if they hadn’t already.
“This will be the last opportunity to opt in,” Pryor said.
The window to update a student’s learning preference will close on May 7. Those who want to return to in-person learning will return to classrooms on May 25.
Students are able to shift from in-person learning to online-only learning at any time.