The Oak Park and River Forest High School Class of 2020 will go down in history as the only graduating class at the school to ever have a virtual ceremony. District 200 administrators announced May 13 that the virtual graduation will take place Sunday, June 14, at 3 p.m.
Administrators had previously announced that they planned to hold an in-person graduation ceremony on Aug. 2. The move came after an overwhelming majority of families noted that an in-person ceremony was their first preference.
Since then, however, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that his five-stage reopening plan for reopening the state prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people until the last stage — which will only come about when COVID-19 can be cured with a vaccine, effectively treated and/or shown to be significantly decreasing by the lack of new cases over a sustained period of time “through herd immunity or other factors.”
“Recognizing that our first responsibility is to the health and safety of our students and families, we will not hold an in-person graduation for the Class of 2020,” said D209 Supt Joylynn Pruitt-Adam in a letter sent to families last week.
“In the midst of so much loss for our seniors, we know that this is very disappointing news,” Pruitt-Adams said. “We will do everything we can to make it special by replicating as many of the traditional elements of our commencement program as possible.”
The superintendent said that the virtual ceremony “will incorporate photos and names of all graduates,” similar to the virtual Honors Convocation that was held in April. She added that seniors will be asked to “send us photos of themselves in their caps and gowns to use instead of their yearbook photo.”
The district plans to post and archive the ceremony on YouTube, as well as air it on the village of Oak Park’s cable access channel.
The district also announced last week that the D200 school board approved several measures to waive some of the graduation requirements for the Class of 2020 amid the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.
The district reduced the overall number of credits to graduate from 43 to 38 and waived the graduation requirement to complete certain “in-progress” classes, including computer proficiency, financial literacy and driver education.
The waiver only applies to the Class of 2020 and “not to any future or past classes at OPRF,” Pruitt-Adams said.