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In-person MHS graduation canceled
COVID-19 cases spike in county, online ceremony can be viewed on YouTube
mhs 2020 graduation
Monroe 2020 graduate Kylie Merchant stands on the Courthouse lawn Aug. 7 holding a graduation sign. It was announced Aug. 5 that an in-person graduation ceremony would not be held amid COVID-19 concerns. Parents and seniors had to get creative in finding ways to honor and celebrate the class of 2020, with some opting to put up signs on the Courthouse lawn for the community to see. - photo by Shannon Rabotski

MONROE — School District of Monroe High School seniors this year missed out on their final prom, spring sports season and saying goodbye to friends at the M-room doors one last time.

When COVID-19 took hold of the nation in early spring, school districts from all over were making decisions on graduation — deciding whether or not to postpone, cancel or get creative.

For Monroe seniors, the hope that they could have an in-person graduation ceremony Aug. 7 hung on until the week of, when the announcement came Aug. 5 that Green County’s COVID-19 cases moved back into the “high” activity level and that a ceremony could not be safely held. 

Instead, the school provided an online ceremony that can be viewed on YouTube. 

Cael Losenegger found out in June that he was to be the graduation speaker for Monroe’s class of 2020. At the time, he wasn’t sure what graduation would look like, but remained hopeful that an in-person ceremony would happen come August. In July, he was asked to record his speech as a backup in case a virtual graduation became necessary.

Finding out a few weeks later that graduation would be going the virtual route, Losenegger was disappointed by the news.

“It’s not easy news to get that you won’t be having your graduation ceremony,” Losenegger said. “The traditional ceremony definitely helps to provide some closure. To have (graduation) be different from really anybody before us is really tough.”

As active COVID-19 cases in the county dropped through the month of July, school administrators were optimistic that an in-person ceremony would remain possible. By July 30, just eight days before the planned ceremony, the county had only one active case. In the week following, those cases shot up to 30 by Aug. 7, District Administrator Rick Waski said. 

“I didn’t feel like it was safe to conduct the outdoor ceremony,” Waski said. “We are deeply disappointed that we weren’t able to have a final in-person celebration.”

By Aug. 10, there were 37 active cases in the county and it remained in the “high” activity level. 

“They made the decision they had to make,” 2020 graduate Kylie Merchant said. 

The loss of graduation was difficult for many graduating seniors who had their final year in high school cut short, so many took it into their own hands to celebrate the years they put into completing high school.

“Walking across that stage is a huge feat for everyone in the graduating class,” Monroe 2020 graduate Hailey Gille said. 

Gille and friends could be found on the courthouse lawn Aug. 7, dressed in their graduation gowns for photos.

Others took to the Courthouse lawn to put up signs to honor the class of 2020 seniors. 

“At first it was hard and you’re mad, but you have to try and encourage them,” Merchant’s mother, Kristy Schindler said. “It’s not the same, but it’s still paying tribute to them and the community can still acknowledge them. It’s not the same, but it’s a safe way of doing things.”

Graduation was not the only activity the school district canceled. The district’s Jumpstart Summer School has been canceled and the school year will start in a hybrid plan with students combining in-person learning with virtual learning.