School district announces change to Iowa City graduation ceremony

Iowa City West High School students graduate at Carver Hawkeye Arena on the University of Iowa campus. — Iowa City Community School District

Graduating Iowa City high school seniors won’t be receiving their diplomas at Carver Hawkeye Arena this spring as planned, the Iowa City Community School District announced on Friday.

“As of right now, we know that we will not be holding graduation ceremonies at Carver Hawkeye Arena as originally planned,” ICCSD Director of Community Relation Kristin Pedersen said in an email to district families and staff. “We will provide more details as this situation develops; however, we will do everything we can to make sure all of our seniors graduate.”

Another standard part of high school senior life is unlikely to happen due to COVID-19. Proms in the district are postponed “until further notice,” according to Pedersen’s email. ICCSD is also postponing Kindergarten Round-Up.

Pederson said the district will continue offering continuous learning opportunities online through at least the end of the month. The district is still working on its plans on how to proceed after April 30.

Participation in the online learning opportunities remains voluntary, and assignments will not be graded. Federal law requires a school district’s online learning program to guarantee equitable treatment for students with individual education plans or other special needs before participation can be made mandatory or grades assigned.

Although ICCSD hasn’t made a decision regarding the remainder of the school year yet, Des Moines Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, announced on Wednesday it is canceling all in-person classes and moving to online instruction for the rest of the semester.

“The superintendent said the district is still working with the Iowa Department of Education to determine how students will be graded,” the Des Moines Register reported.

On Friday afternoon, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed another State Public Health Emergency Declaration. Among its provisions, the declaration that temporarily suspends state laws “requiring curriculum standards and completion of specific units of credit for completion of a high school program of study, to the extent such provisions would hinder Iowa school districts in assisting the Iowa high school graduating class of 2020 in completing a course of study during this disaster emergency.”

The exact impact the declaration will have on school district decisions is not yet clear.

In her email, Pederson reiterated the importance of social distancing in stopping the spread of COVID-19, and asked students and others to “refrain from congregating at school facilities or on school grounds, which includes utilizing school playgrounds, athletic fields, and courts while schools are closed.”

The district’s grab-and-grow meal program will continue as long as schools remain closed, Pederson said.

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