Crystal City High School, which held its commencement ceremony May 15, is the only high school in the county that got to hold its graduation on the date it was originally scheduled.
All the other high schools in the county have tentatively rescheduled graduations for dates in June or July, but school officials stress that whether those postponed ceremonies are held depends on how the COVID-19 pandemic progresses and what the social-distancing directives are at the time.
Because school buildings have been closed since mid-March and graduations have been at least delayed, efforts have been made to honor high school seniors, who have missed out on proms and other special occasions.
For example, many high schools participated in a national effort to acknowledge graduating seniors by turning on stadium lights at 8:20 p.m. – 20:20 in military time – and leaving them on for 20 minutes, 20 seconds on designated nights, particularly Fridays, leading up to their original graduation dates.
The following are details about plans for graduations and activities planned to recognize Jefferson County high school seniors.
While Crystal City High held its graduation ceremony for its class of 2020 on May 15 – the originally scheduled date for the event – the ceremony was held outside at the district’s football stadium rather than in the high school gym.
Crystal City High Principal Matt Holdinghausen, who will take over as the district superintendent on July 1, said the school’s small graduating class of just 36 students made it possible to space people out enough to hold the event, albeit outside.
Families were given staggered arrival times so they could be escorted to designated spots in the stadium to watch their children receive their diplomas. Attendees were required to wear masks.
“I’m excited we could do this for the kids,” Holdinghausen said.
After it did not rain, which was a possibility under weather forecasts, everyone breathed a sigh of relief, said Crystal City Board of Education President Ken Holdinghausen.
“Everyone had their own little areas for their families and everyone was wearing a mask,” he said. “There was no hand-shaking. We laid the diploma on a table. They picked up their diploma and took off their masks for a short period of time so pictures could be taken with the diplomas.”
Matt Holdinghausen praised the graduates and their families for helping make the event a success.
“It went very well,” he said. “Our families were so respectful and understanding. It was great.”
Prior to the graduation, the district used its Facebook page to recognize seniors’ achievements, Matt Holdinghausen said.
He said a parade was planned for the entire district on Wednesday, after Leader deadline.
The De Soto High School graduation ceremony originally scheduled for this coming Friday has been rescheduled for July 31 at the district activities stadium, said Superintendent Josh Isaacson.
“We will have a virtual senior awards ceremony (on Friday),” Isaacson said. “It will be live streamed via Facebook.”
Mike Genge, a teacher and coach at De Soto High School, helped with an effort to provide its seniors with congratulatory yard signs.
He said some families commissioned congratulatory signs for their graduating seniors, which spurred teachers to donate toward a community project to provide all the De Soto High seniors with a sign.
“The signs say De Soto graduate 2020 and have the individual student’s name on the front and back,” Genge said.
He said Matt O’Harver of De Soto designed the signs and arranged for a company to make them.
“He’s doing this all at cost. He’s a big supporter of De Soto,” Genge said. “We raised about $1,300 from teachers, some community members and retired teachers. I’d say 50 or 60 contributed. There are people volunteering to donate stakes and to put up the signs in their yards.”
O’Harver said other school districts learned about the De Soto sign project and they asked him to help them get signs for their seniors, too.
The Dunklin R-5 School District Board of Education was expected on Tuesday, after Leader deadline, to reschedule the Herculaneum High School graduation ceremony, which originally was set for Wednesday, said Matt Lichtenstein, the district’s communications director.
He said the district had planned to hold a parade on Wednesday to honor graduating seniors.
Lichtenstein said congratulatory signs were made and distributed to Herculaneum High’s approximately 90 graduates.
Festus High School originally scheduled its graduation for Wednesday, but it has been postponed to June 26, and is supposed to be held at the district’s activities stadium. In the event of rain, the ceremony will be held the morning of June 27 and if that is rained out, it will take place June 28, district officials have announced.
The high school was expected to hold a photo session for the senior class on Wednesday at Tiger Stadium.
Amy Daugherty, a parent of a Festus High senior, spearheaded a campaign to raise funds for yard signs recognizing that school’s graduating seniors.
“We’re having signs made – Matt O’Harver is doing it,” Daugherty said. “We have more than 170 in our senior class. I put this out to the parents. I contacted (Festus R-6 officials) and got a list of names.
“I asked for donations on Facebook and in under an hour, had all the money needed. We had many people donate to us and had one very large donation from a family friend, Mike Agers.”
Fox C-6 school officials recently discussed plans for end-of-the-year activities for Seckman High School’s 426 seniors and Fox High School’s 410 seniors.
Graduation ceremonies for both high schools originally were scheduled for Sunday but were rescheduled for June 21, at Chaifetz Arena on St. Louis University’s campus, with Fox’s to start at 11:30 a.m. and Seckman’s slated to begin at 3 p.m. If that ceremony is held, each graduate would get 15 tickets for guests, said Tammy Cardona, assistant superintendent in charge of secondary education.
If the ceremonies can’t be held in June, the district set aside Saturday, July 25, for the Fox High graduation, and Sunday, July 26, for the Seckman High graduation. Those ceremonies would be held at the two schools’ athletic stadiums.
Students would have just five tickets each if the graduation ceremonies are held at the schools, Cardona said.
If the ceremonies are held at the schools, the district will live stream the events so the public may watch them.
“Not only are there limited tickets, but we are guessing there will be some family members who are not comfortable coming out yet, so we want them to be able to see it from home, too,” Cardona said.
If gatherings are still not allowed in July, the district would hold a virtual graduation for Fox seniors on July 25 and Seckman seniors on July 26.
Because of the uncertainty of graduation, Cardona said Fox has not made a final decision about Fox’s Project Graduation or Seckman’s Senior Splash. Those two events are lock-ins seniors may attend after graduation.
Seniors are scheduled to pick up caps and gowns at their respective high schools on June 1.
As of May 15, plans for the two schools’ proms and graduation ceremonies remained in place, tentatively, based on social-distancing directives when those dates arrive, Cardona said.
Both schools’ proms are expected to be held at The Falls in Columbia, Ill., with Seckman High’s on June 17 and Fox High’s on June 19.
Because the venue for the proms is in Illinois, the district will monitor the state’s situation during the pandemic, Cardona said.
Since graduation and prom plans are up in the air, Kristen Katz, a parent of a Seckman High graduating senior, made sure the Class of 2020 was celebrated in a special way.
Katz created a Facebook fundraising page, with a goal to raise $7,400, which would cover the cost of Arnold Printing and Graphics to create yard signs and T-shirts for every senior in the district.
By April 15, the effort had brought in about $11,250.
“It was crazy,” said Katz, whose family lives in the Arnold area. “I started the fundraiser at noon (April 9), and by the time we went to bed that night or the next morning, we had hit our goal.”
Katz said money that is not used to pay for the signs and T-shirts will be divided between the high schools, and students will decide how the money is used.
The Grandview School District plans to soon reschedule its graduation ceremony, which originally was scheduled for Monday, after Leader deadline, Superintendent Matt Zoph said.
In the meantime, the school planned to hold a parade that day to honor the 79 graduating seniors. The event also was to give students the chance to get a photo taken with board president Bob Gearhart, who will act like he’s giving out the diplomas.
Zoph said Grandview High participated in the 20:20 program, and seniors also got yard signs.
“The school district bought every senior a sign and the principals and teachers put them in their yards,” he said.
Hillsboro district officials have rescheduled the high school graduation from its original date in May to July 31 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro, but those who know they will not be able to attend may contact the district and schedule individual graduation events.
“We realize some students are not going to be able to attend because of military commitments and other reasons,” Superintendent Jon Isaacson said. “Arrangements can be made for individual, personal graduations for students and their families June 3-4 at the high school, with administrators adhering to social distancing. These will need to be by appointment.”
Isaacson said Hillsboro High used the 20:20 events to recognize particular groups of students. “One week, we did it for our athletes, where they got out of their cars and an announcer read their accomplishments and a little bio,” Isaacson said. “The next week, we did the fine arts students.”
Seniors were scheduled to be recognized at the 20:20 event on Monday, he said.
Isaacson said the district also provided congratulatory yard signs for seniors.
Jefferson R-7 School District officials have rescheduled the Jefferson High School graduation ceremony from May 15 to July 25 in the high school gym, Superintendent Clint Johnston said.
“The district will be practicing social-distancing guidelines in effect as of July 18,” he said. “It will be a ticketed event. Students will be given a number of tickets dependent on social-distancing guidelines.”
The district had plans to stage a parade at the high school honoring the graduating seniors on Tuesday, when students were expected to stand 6 feet apart and watch as people drove by congratulating them.
Jefferson High seniors also got yard signs, after parent Diana Rystrom started the project at that school.
“I thought, ‘What a wonderful idea!’ and presented it to the R-7 Board of Education,” Rystrom said.
She said R-7 officials thought so much of the idea they decided to have the district pay for the signs for their 71 graduating seniors.
Northwest High school’s graduation, which was scheduled for this Friday, has been rescheduled for July 31 at the Family Arena in St. Charles.
However, the high school will hold a virtual graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 on Friday, according to the school’s website.
“While we are still looking at all options for an in-person graduation when it is safe and appropriate, the district would still like to honor the seniors on what would have been their graduation day,” the district reported.
The virtual ceremony will include music and student and staff speeches, and the graduating seniors’ names and accomplishments will be announced.
The ceremony will be pre-recorded and aired at 7 p.m. Students, parents and others may view it by going to northwestschools.net.
Northwest R-1 Superintendent Desi Kirchhofer said the district will do what it can to hold an actual graduation ceremony.
“The questions are how, when and where,” he said. “We’re going to hang in there as long as we can. We need to allow for some kind of closure for our students.”
Students will receive their caps and gowns on Friday.
Kirchhofer said the high school also has been working to find other ways to recognize its 410 graduating seniors since they missed out on so much this school year.
Windsor C-1 School District Assistant Superintendent Jeff Buscher said graduation plans for the high school’s approximately 200 graduates have changed.
“Our original graduation was to be May 18 at Jefferson College,” Buscher said. “Tentatively, the date has been set for June 16, with backup dates June 17 and June 18. It will now be at the football field.”
The district was scheduled to hold a parade Monday to honor the graduates, Buscher said.
He said the district also has started recognizing seniors and their accomplishments on its Twitter feed.
“It has a picture of a senior and lists what they have been involved in, favorite moments, favorite teachers and those type of things,” Buscher said.
He also said a group was looking into producing yard signs to honor every graduating senior.
“Nothing will replace what they are losing, but we are trying to do what we can for them,” Buscher said.
St. Pius X High School
The graduation for St. Pius X High School, a private Catholic school in Crystal City, was scheduled for May 15, but has been called off.
Instead, the school scheduled a recognition ceremony on Tuesday for its 80 graduating seniors, Principal Karen DeCosty said.
She said the ceremony was going to include a parade.
The school put together a video featuring seniors’ “stage walks” to receive diplomas, just one of the activities St. Pius held to recognize its graduating seniors.
“It’s being released on social media,” DeCosty said.
She said because the seniors did not get their traditional “farewell prayer service” at school May 8, faculty and staff visited them. “We went to the seniors’ houses and presented them with a congratulatory yard sign, their cap and gown, and we have a tradition of teachers and the rest of the student body writing affirmations for seniors. They say thank you to the seniors, wishing them well. The affirmations were put in envelopes and delivered that day, as well. We had well over 2,000 affirmations,” DeCosty said.