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District 196 high schools to offer socially distanced graduation celebrations

District 196 high schools will offer seniors and their families an in-person graduation experience featuring some of the key moments that define graduation, done in a very different and appropriately distanced way due to the pandemic.

The three-part optional experience will begin with individual diploma cover presentation and photo opportunities at each school in the days leading up to and after graduation. On graduation day at each school, there will be a parade of graduates in separate vehicles held a few hours before graduation. Shortly after the parades, at the scheduled graduation times, commencement ceremony videos will premiere online recognizing members of the Class of 2020 at Apple Valley, Eagan, Eastview and Rosemount high schools, and the School of Environmental Studies.

A committee of district and high school administrators has been meeting since March, working in cooperation with local police departments, developing options to safely and appropriately recognize the more than 2,100 students who will graduate from district high schools in early June. Earlier this month, the state released guidance prohibiting graduations in gymnasiums and stadiums, and provided parameters for holding events outside the home such as a parking lot ceremony or graduate parade. When Governor Walz announced the stay-at-home order would expire May 18, the committee finalized its plan and schools are finalizing site-specific details that will be shared with seniors and their families soon. 

“This plan honors our incredible graduates as we strive to provide a safe experience for them and their families,” said Superintendent Mary Kreger. “The most important thing is to share our appreciation and pride for the Class of 2020. Our entire community celebrates their success. We are incredibly proud of their strength and resilience, and we know they will continue to make the world a better place.”

Kreger stressed that public health and safety will be top priorities during the diploma presentation opportunities and graduate parades. The diploma presentations will be highly controlled, with scheduled time slots, one-way movement and minimal interaction with others. The schools will offer a similar opportunity later this year for anyone who cannot or chooses not to participate now.

The Apple Valley, Eagan and Rosemount police departments will be present to ensure the parades are orderly and only involve invited participants who remain inside their vehicles. The only people allowed outside of vehicles will be teachers and school staff appropriately distanced along the route to cheer the graduates as they ride by in vehicles with family members only.

The commencement ceremony videos will premiere on the District 196 YouTube channel and other sites on the following dates and times:

  • Thursday, June 4,  7 p.m. – School of Environmental Studies
  • Friday, June 5, 7 p.m. – Rosemount High School
  • Saturday, June 6 – Eagan High School (2:20 p.m.), Apple Valley High School (6 p.m.) and Eastview High School (7 p.m. ).

The committee considered postponing graduations until later this summer, but did not like the ongoing uncertainty of that option. The new “stay safe Minnesota” guidance limits gatherings to no more than 10 people.