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MAHOMET — It’s a big weekend for the Mahomet-Seymour Class of 2020: Graduates will participate in a ceremony Saturday, May 16, in a COVID-19 guideline-safe manner for commencement recognition that has been elusive due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mahomet-Seymour High School Principal Chad Benedict said the graduation ceremony will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the high school and be livestreamed on Bulldog TV, the school district’s YouTube channel. The district is following Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines in offering the recognition for the 2020 graduates of MSHS.

“This ceremony gives the opportunity to make sure we recognize our seniors one final time in our building,” Benedict told parents in an email outlining the plan.

The May 16 ceremony will be livestreamed on Bulldog TV so families can watch their senior walk across the stage, according to Benedict. The ceremony will be recorded and produced into a graduation video to celebrate the Class of 2020.

That video will be released on Bulldog TV at 7:30 p.m. May 22, he noted.

Also on May 22, a Senior Celebration will be held in the high school parking lot from 6:30 to 7 p.m., according to Benedict.

Protocol in place to ensure student and staff safety during the May 16 graduation ceremony includes the following:

— Only senior students will be allowed into the building. Each will wear a cap and gown and a mask. Those who need assistance may bring one support person.

— On May 16th, students are to arrive five minutes before their time slot and park their car in the front row and proceed to the main doors. They are to observe social distancing on the way into the building (remain six feet apart).

— The main doors will be propped open so no one has to touch a door.

— Once inside the main doors, students move toward the main gym. They will see cones along the way and should proceed to the open cone and stop. They will remain at a cone until the one in front of them is open and it is their turn to go into the gym. Someone will be there to assist. Social distancing guidelines will be strictly followed.

— One student at a time

will be called into the gym. Students may remove their mask and walk across the stage and be recognized. Once their recognition is completed, students will put their mask back on and will exit in the southwest corner of the gym and leave the building through the field house doors. Officials note that they are not able to give the actual diploma to the student on stage according to state guidelines. Senior letters will be given to students as they leave the gym.

— All staff will wear a mask and observe social distancing. Officials will sanitize any areas that were touched after each graduate leaves and before the next one enters.

— Pictures and video production will be made available at a later date.

Senior celebration

For the celebration of seniors on May 22, seniors and their families are welcome to come to the high school parking lot and see high school staff and bring closure to their year. Students can visit anytime between 6:30 and 7 p.m..

— Seniors and their families should be in one vehicle. Students should not be in vehicles together. School leaders suggest that seniors have a family member drive so they can see MSHS staff while driving through the parking lot.

— Participants should enter the main parking lot from State Street and follow the traffic pattern. Barricades and cones will be set up to help with traffic.

— MSHS Staff will be parked in the parking lot (with proper social distancing). Seniors will have the chance to see staff and wave goodbye. All students must remain in their vehicles.

— Vehicles will drive along the west side of the field house and exit onto Crowley Road.

“We appreciate your patience, understanding, and flexibility as we continue to work through these challenging times,” Benedict said in an email to parents and students. “We want to provide a safe experience that gives our seniors the recognition they deserve. While this does not replace our traditional graduation, we hope that our students, families, and staff will find some comfort in getting to experience these activities together.”

Benedict also answered frequently asked questions regarding the planned ceremony and celebration via email.

1. Why can’t families come into the gym and watch their student graduate? The State Graduation Guidelines do not allow for this.

2. Why did we move away from the July 10th date? When the Graduation Guidelines were released and the Governor released the Restore Illinois, Krannert officials were uncertain of what a ceremony would look like and that it would have to be an alternative ceremony from what we had traditionally done in the past. Not knowing what the future holds with the Restore Illinois Plan, we felt it was best to move forward with a plan that follows the graduation guidelines. We did not want to get left with the possibility of having nothing at all for our seniors.

3. Why can’t we use the football field now or in the future for the ceremony? We could use the football field but it would be limited to only students per the State Graduation Guidelines. Should we get guidance from the state that allows us to gather in larger groups in the future, we would like to host a celebration for the Class of 2020.

4. Why did you rush so quickly into this decision? We have been constantly evaluating options as to how best to serve our seniors. There have been countless hours spent to arrive at this point. While this may appear to be a rushed decision, I can assure you it was not. Once we received clarification, we adjusted. The seniors have had so much taken from them already, we wanted to make sure we were ready to honor them on May 22, 2020 (their original graduation date).

5. Top ten students, honor cords, and student recognition? Honor cords will be available for students. They will be available on May 16th. Students who are Top Ten will be recognized. The final video will be put together to recognize the Top Ten in order, followed by the rest of the senior class in alphabetical order. Valedictorian, salutatorian, and class president will be given the opportunity to address the class.

6. Pictures will be taken and shared with families. Students will be photographed on stage as well as at a picture backdrop in the gym once the students leave the stage.

7. Will there be pre-recorded music? We are working with Mr. (Michael) Stevens to incorporate recordings from the MSHS band at previous graduation ceremonies into the final video.

“Trust me when I say that these are tough decisions to make,” Benedict told parents. “I want the same things as everyone else. I want to be able to have families join their students in celebration as they walk across the stage. I want our seniors to be able to hug each other and celebrate this special time. I want our students to be able to talk with their teachers face to face. I want so much for the Class of 2020.”