Riverside-Brookfield High School seniors will graduate virtually on May 29, one week later than the previously scheduled graduation. If government orders permit, which seems unlikely, RBHS will host an in-person graduation ceremony one month later on June 29 at the school’s Kennelly Athletic Center.
A survey of seniors indicated that they would like to have an in-person ceremony. But the ceremony on June 29 will only be held if large group gatherings of more than 1,000 people are allowed by then. If not, there will be no in-person graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020.
Students will pick up their diplomas in person on the afternoon of May 29 at the RBHS parking lot, but it will be drive-up only and students will not be allowed to get out of their cars to receive their diplomas.
Seniors are being encouraged to wear their caps and gowns and decorate their cars for the drive-thru diploma pickup. Seniors are scheduled to pick up their caps, gowns and yearbooks on May 19 in a procedure that will involve a staff member placing the items in the students’ car trunks.
The virtual ceremony on May 29 will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the RBTV’s YouTube channel (youtube.com/myRBTV). It will feature a speech by RBHS Principal Hector Freytas and a pre-recorded musical piece by a performing artist that Jostens, the class ring and yearbook company, is facilitating for high schools across the country. There will also be and speeches by two graduating seniors.
Each graduate’s name will be read and the student’s senior yearbook photo will pop up on the screen when the name is read.
“It will be exactly like our graduation program, except that it will be on a live YouTube channel, like a Zoom platform,” said RBHS District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis. “The only difference is we won’t be able to do a choir or orchestra piece. … We want to make sure we can do something nice for the kids, but at the same time we have to do something safe.”
RBHS senior Lidia Bielobradek said she and other seniors are disappointed about having a virtual graduation ceremony. She said that some students won’t be around in late June, even if the in-person graduation ceremony is allowed to take place.
“I know plenty of people who that won’t be here in June anymore,” Bielobradek said. “I won’t be here, some of my friends won’t be here. People already have plans for vacation and stuff. I’m not very happy with a virtual graduation. I don’t think many people are, but also there’s not really anything else we can do.”
The RBHS administration is reducing a number of state graduation requirements this year in a move that is being recommended by the Illinois State of Board of Education due to the switch to remote learning.
The state has reduced the number of credits needed in core academic areas by half a credit, which is equivalent to a semester of work. And seniors will be exempted from the state requirements for participation in physical education, health, consumer education and government classes.
The administration is also requesting that the District 208 school board reduce or eliminate some RBHS-specific graduation requirements for this year. It is asking the school board to reduce the number of total credits required to graduate from 22 to 19.5.
It is also recommending that the requirement to complete the Fine Arts Survey class be eliminated for this year and that the total number of credits required for Cultural & Global Area Studies and Cultural & Applied Studies be reduced from 2.0 to 1.5.
In another accommodation to remote learning, there will be no final exams for any RBHS students this year.
At a school board meeting last month, Freytas said that about 85 percent of RBHS students have been actively engaged in remote learning.