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Plan in place

In a past graduation, Freeport students toss their caps into the air following the ceremony at the football field. This year 115 students will enter the Middle School auditorium, one at a time, to receive their diploma, as well as a rose, from two family members on June 4 and 5.
Freeport June graduation will be family focused

BUFFALO TWP — The Freeport Area School District's administration waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Principal Mike Kleckner said he and the rest of the administration wanted to see what surrounding districts were planning to do to hold commencement before they leapt into a decision.

They couldn't wait any longer.

After weeks of debate, administrators in the Freeport Area School District formulated a plan to hold a graduation ceremony June 4 and 5 and announced it in an email to students and parents Friday.

“We didn't know where we would be in late July or even early July,” Kleckner said. “We were really nervous about pushing it back to July and then having nothing happen.”

The plan, though, was not well received by all Freeport seniors.

The plan

It calls for the 115 graduates to enter the Middle School auditorium, one at a time, to receive their diploma, as well as a rose, from two family members.

Each graduate will be filmed receiving their diploma and a full video of all graduates will be distributed at a later time.

Senior speeches will also be given and filmed.

Each family will receive a specific time to arrive at the Middle School on either June 4 or 5 between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Aggressive social distancing protocols will be in place, Kleckner said in an email sent out to all seniors Friday. Each family member will wear a mask at all times. Only the graduate will be permitted to remove his or her mask when they receive their diploma on stage.

Graduates can have up to nine family members in attendance.

“We wanted it to be intimate and wanted family members involved,” Kleckner said.

Graduating alone

Several graduates, however, are unhappy.

Senior Nolan Plocki expressed his displeasure with the plan in an open letter to the administration on social media.

So far, he said, he has not received a response.

“I just feel like a lot of other schools around us are doing better things to make sure their senior class is getting a better graduation plan,” Nolan said. “I feel like there would be a better way to have our graduation together while still staying apart.”

Nolan pointed to Mars Area High School as an example. Mars is holding a graduation ceremony in the parking lot surrounding the school and letting graduates walk past their classmates, who will be tucked safely inside their cars, to get their diploma.

“The way our graduation is set up now,” Nolan said, “none of us will be able to be together or see each other during it.”

Senior Maddie Clark also wondered why Freeport couldn't have an outdoor graduation and still observe social distancing.

“I hate to sound unappreciative, but I'm honestly not too happy about it, especially after hearing about the graduation plans of other schools that are bigger than ours,” Maddie said. “Their ideas all seem reasonable and safe, so it's hard to understand why our school can't do the same.”

Senior Garret Schaffhauser was particularly outspoken in his displeasure with the plan.

“My biggest objection is us working our entire life up to this point to graduate and it makes me really upset we're going to have to do it in front of a camera rather than with my friends,” he said.

“Don't get me wrong — I have the (upmost) respect for our staff and teachers,” Garret added, “but I think with a little bit of communication with our class we could find a better way to do this while keeping the restrictions that we need.”

Tough decision

Kleckner said he and those who worked on the plan realized it wasn't perfect.

To them, however, it was what they thought was best given the current environment, he said.

“We want to make it the best we can for our kids,” Kleckner said. “We know it's tough and we know not everyone is happy. I want them to know we always consider them first.”

While some of her classmates were outspoken in opposition of the plan, Sidney Shemanski said she thought the administration did the best it could under the circumstances.

“I may be in the minority, but I'm happy to just get to walk for graduation,” Sidney said. “I'm extremely thankful we can do that. Kids are acting like a global pandemic is not occurring.”