Indianola High School's graduation will go on as a traditional but postponed ceremony, if health guidelines continue to allow.

Indianola’s Class of 2020 is about to have its moment in the sun. Not even a pandemic could overshadow that.

It did, however, delay and change the ceremony.

The commencement for Indianola High School will take place at 1 p.m. this Sunday, June 28, at the Blake Fieldhouse, open only to ticket holders.

“It is a special event for our seniors and their families,” said Jeff Siebersma, IHS principal. “We are fortunate to be able to have a traditional ceremony with restrictions, considering a lot of other seniors were not so fortunate.”

The event was originally scheduled for May 24, but was shelved by the same COVID-19 restrictions that had led to school closures this spring, along with cancelled or virtual graduation ceremonies nationwide.

For a time, Indianola administrators contemplated going virtual, but a student-initiated petition led them to refocus on a traditional but postponed celebration—if health guidelines at the time allowed.

After consulting with Warren County Health Services earlier this month, district leaders came up with a plan to make the event happen, with a few adjustments to maintain social distancing.

“I would just ask that everyone follow the guidance provided in order to provide a safe commencement,” Siebersma said.

Perhaps most notable will be limited entry to the fieldhouse, and how the audience will be seated: Each senior was allotted a pair of advance tickets and a “pod” of two seats spaced six feet from others. Seating isn’t assigned, but it also isn’t to be moved.

A few elements will be missing from the ceremony: A handshake from the school board member who confers the diploma, and live instrumental music, since spread-out seating didn’t leave room for the band.

This week, a letter from the school district to seniors and their families reminded them to avoid mingling before or after the ceremony. In fact, the audience will be ushered out, to avoid congestion at any one exit.

“We ask that you remain seated until your area is dismissed by a staff member,” the letter read. “We were instructed to have guests leave out separate exits to allow proper social distancing.”

But then, grads and guests alike are asked to stay home entirely if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days, are experiencing symptoms, or have been around someone who has.

“Masks are not required, but encouraged,” the letter noted.

Despite all of the changes, celebrating and memory-making is encouraged, too. Stacey Johnson, IHS building secretary, and Siebersma have planned a ceremony with most of the usual features.

Recorded music will provide the soundtrack for the processional and recessional, and a senior choir will perform the national anthem. Speakers will include Superintendent Art Sathoff, retiring theater instructor Randy Stone and graduating senior Tom Krapfl.

Disappointed to miss the festivities? Even though the in-person audience is limited, anyone can tune in to the live stream.

On Monday, June 29, Johnson will also email the virtual ceremony to seniors and their parents. It had been put together in the event a live ceremony wasn’t possible and now offers an option to those unable to live stream.

Siebersma said he’s looking forward to the day, even with all its moving parts. Pandemic aside, it was always going to be memorable.

“Being my first year in the Indianola district, it will be a graduation I will remember,” he said. “I have had a great first-year experience in the district, and I look forward to serving the high school, the district and the community for many years to come.”

He said he feels for the soon-to-be graduates, whose senior year was upended. But he finds them to be a resilient bunch, and this ceremony is all about celebrating them.

“I believe the Class of 2020 will remember this experience and grow from it,” Siebersma said. “I feel bad for those who lost out on opportunities for their senior year. I am grateful that some relief has been given with the opening of summer athletics, and our ability to hold a live ceremony.”

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