New OHS graduation plan includes June 28 ceremony; limited family attendance possible for stadium event

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 5/20/20

Gasconade County R-2 officials changed the 2020 commencement date no less than four times in 24 hours since the May 18 meeting. The district is attempting to schedule the event outdoors with rainout …

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New OHS graduation plan includes June 28 ceremony; limited family attendance possible for stadium event

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Gasconade County R-2 officials changed the 2020 commencement date no less than four times in 24 hours since the May 18 meeting. The district is attempting to schedule the event outdoors with rainout dates in order to have fewer coronavirus-related restrictions.

District officials discussed changes at the Monday night board meeting, including changing the time to 6 p.m. on June 27 with a rain-out date of June 28. Should that fail, graduation will be moved to the back-up date of 6 p.m. July 26.

While the board initially approved this idea, Owensville High School (OHS) Principal Kris Altemeyer on Tuesday afternoon said they realized some scheduling conflicts and nixed the whole concept.

“We are going to keep the same dates (6 p.m. on June 28) with a rain date of Monday, June 29. That keeps all academic awards and prom on the same dates as was originally released.”

The reason for the Monday night discussion, according to Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner, was because there are fewer restrictions if the district chose to host graduation outside, making not only a rain-out date necessary, but also a time change.

“We had scheduled (graduation) Sunday, June 28 for the first date,” Garner said. “But it looks like — we don’t know what the restrictions are going to be. They are going to allow outside venues to be first before inside venues and if that is the case, then the concern is if we do it at 2 o’ clock on Sunday, June 28, at the football stadium are you still comfortable having it at 2 p.m.? Question number two is if you are worried about a rain date, do you want to back it up to a Saturday and if it rains on Saturday, it automatically rolls over to 6 p.m. on Sunday, both in June and in July?”

Garner said they could do either. They could keep the time at 2 p.m. or change it to 6 p.m., whatever the board would like to do.

Directors Russ Farrell and Board President Glenn Ely said they both liked the Saturday/Sunday idea.

“Nothing could be worse than scheduling it and then putting it off again,” Farrell said.

Garner said they have already sent out that graduation will be held June 28, but that it is not too late to send out that for weather reasons they will host it June 27, and if that doesn’t work, they will immediately do June 28. If that doesn’t work, it will be held in July, same time.

Ely asked if there would be any issues or conflicts with fireworks displays in the area.

“I know Rosebud is not doing it,” Garner said.

The city of Bland has advertised that they will host a fireworks display at the city park on June 27, but board members said graduation would be over before dark.

The board was asked if there would be no limitation on how many family members could attend and Garner said they don’t know about restrictions yet.

“That is a conversation we are talking about, pushing the stage back to the visitors side of the field right on the out-of-bounds, and do something much like you would envision at a Gasconade County Fair concert where they can bring their lawn chairs and make them socially separate on the field. We would have no problem socially distancing the graduates.”

If family is limited, Garner said it will be determined by what the restrictions are at that time. There are 136 graduates and if each graduate is limited to four family members, plus faculty and staff, they are already up to 600 people.

“That would be the guess,” Altemeyer agreed. “It would get up there quickly.”

Director Molly Steinbeck said a school last weekend divided their class of 54 into three groups of 18 so each student could invite 10 people.

Normally a graduation ceremony in Owensville has about 2,000 family and friends in attendance.

“The concerns we have, you can limit it by alphabet or whatever, but then the concerns you have with cousins who have different last names and now they don’t all get to go in the same group,” Garner said.

Steinbeck asked if they could televise graduation, maybe family would be better with it if there was some way they could watch it.

“We need to tell parents by the first of June if we are going to restrict people, so students can pick up tickets,” Altemeyer said.

The group agreed 6 p.m. will probably still be hot. Athletic Director Ryan Okenfuss suggested setting up further down the field at the 20 yard line and utilizing the shadows of the bleachers on each side of the field. Also distancing guests on the bleachers may be harder, so they may reserve the bleachers for teachers and staff.

When Altemeyer informed The Republican on Tuesday afternoon that plans had changed back to the original June 28 date, keeping the suggested 6 p.m. time change, he added that current social distancing restrictions expire May 31.

“Once we know the guidelines for June, we will announce if limitations for family members at graduation will be necessary, around June 5,” Altemeyer said.

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