If all goes as planned, the Du Quoin High School Class of 2020 will graduate in their caps and gowns on Van Metre Field on July 25, just like they had hoped.
But instead of one big group, grads and their families will be strategically congregated in groups of no more than 50, waiting for their turn to step up and be handed a diploma.
According to Superintendent Matt Hickam, the high school commencement -- and the eighth grade promotion on July 24 -- will each be one big event. Each grad or eighth grader will be allowed up to four family members.
Depending on how many people come -- "I know it will be well-attended, but I'm not expecting 100%," Hickam said -- there could be as many as 10 or 12 "groups" of grads dotting the area around the stadium, all at least 30 feet away from other groups.
The commencement and promotion ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Both will be staged in the end zone closest to the school, and grads will enter the field at the southeast corner of the track.
The class president will give a short speech of welcome and speeches from the 2020 valedictorians Shelby L. Harris and Madeleine Cornett would be given prior to the handing out of diplomas. As the first group of graduates approaches the podium, the next group will be staged safely behind them.
As graduates cross the stage, families will be invited to go up front to take photos. Once a student has the diploma, they and their families will leave the field.
Hickam said they will forgo handshakes. He said the entire ceremony will be shown on Facebook Live, and maybe New Wave Communications will film it for local access TV. Whether there will be live music is still undecided -- Hickam said they'll talk to the senior band students.
Hickam said if the weather is uncooperative on July 24 or July 25, they have the option of moving the ceremonies to earlier in the day. If the day becomes a total washout, they'll move the ceremony to Anders Gym and stage the groups around the school.
He said administrators will share details of both proposals with parents this week and next.
Meanwhile, plans are in the works for a virtual baccalaureate service for the senior class, to be held July 19, the Sunday before graduation. Details on that are forthcoming.
Hickam is hopeful the commencement can be executed, in order to give seniors at least a semi-satisfying ending to their high school years. He is keeping a wary eye on numbers of COVID-19 cases and is relieved to see that Perry County's numbers remain low.
"But, as we've learned, it only takes one," he said. "I hope everybody remembers that over the Fourth of July weekend and exercises caution."