MONTICELLO — The 134 Monticello High School graduates taking part in commencement will have a partial crowd at an indoor ceremony this year. That differs from 2020, when seniors were rotated in and out of Monticello Middle School and quickly received their diplomas due to COVID-19 restrictions.
With crowd limits eased, a more traditional ceremony with seniors being in the new Sievers Center — all at once — is being planned for the afternoon of May 23.
Tickets will still be limited due to 25 percent capacity limits. The math says it should max out the crowd at about 550 people, but graduates, those working the event and people who have been vaccinated do not count in the limit, according to High School Principal Adam Clapp.
“Each graduate will get four tickets. Those four tickets can be used in cases of non-vaccinated individuals,” Clapp said.
“If they have people in their family who are vaccinated, they do not count in our capacity, so they can also attend. Right now, we’re saying each graduate can have six people attend.”
He added more tickets may be released closer to commencement, depending on how many have been spoken for.
As of last week, about 30 percent of Piatt County residents were considered fully-vaccinated. Student clinics were held last week in both Piatt and DeWitt Counties.
In another nod toward normalcy, an in-person prom is being held May 29, although it will be for seniors only and their guests — who must be MHS students.
Masks will be required, and dancing with social distance will be the norm.
But Clapp said students are fine with the rules, even with a prohibition on close-quarters dancing.
“In working with these kids that haven’t had things, they are so excited, even when I say, ‘You understand what this means. You will wear masks.’ They understand and just want to get together and have a good time.”
Prom will be at the Monarch Event Center in Monticello, followed by post-prom at the high school.
Usually held in late April or early May, this year’s prom was scheduled after graduation as a precaution.
“We’ve got great kids, but don’t want the senior prom to be a reason why a kid wasn’t able to walk across the stage (due to contracting COVID-19 or being a close contact), so we put it a week after graduation,” Clapp said.
There will also be band and choir concerts held at the middle school for the first time in more than a year. Principal Mark Hughes said those are scheduled for May 24-25.
“We got approval for the health department to have concerts. They will be the first indoor, live performances in over a year,” Hughes said. “It’s a great way to end the year.”
“They’ll have the parents in one set of bleachers, and the band all the way across the gym on the other side of the gym, so there will be more separation than usual,” School Superintendent Vic Zimmerman said.
In-person high school band and choruses are also being planned before the end of the school year.
The school district’s $35 million facilities project is nearly complete, with mainly punch list items left on contractor’s to-do lists. A last-minute weight room upgrade still needs flooring, but the remainder of the effort is done, Zimmerman said.
“There are very few loose ends, loose ends meaning maybe an outlet cover, so we’re working through that.”
A financial wrap of the project will be presented at the May 19 school board meeting.
A community open house is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 11.
Not part of that project but ongoing is an upgrade of Miller Gym. The floor is being refinished and bleachers replaced. Zimmerman said new paint was having difficulty adhering to the ceiling, so it will be cleaned instead.
The other alternative was to sandblast and paint it, a cost of about $250,000. The superintendent felt that was too much for a space that is no longer the featured gym after construction of the larger Sievers Center.
Lighting will also be replaced at Miller, with the overall project being completed sometime this fall.
At Washington Elementary, which will be closed to students this fall after completion of the facilities project, replacement of the south wing roof will be done this summer. The board approved a $198,447 bid from Design Roofing.
Zimmerman said the work was scheduled for the summer of 2022 prior to a possible sale of the building, but that it is eligible to be paid for out of COVID-relief Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund dollars, so the decision was made to replace it this year.
After a closed session, the board rehired several district administrators, approving one-year contracts for Mark Hughes, Monticello Middle School; Adam Clapp, Monticello High School; Dan Sheehan, MHS assistant principal; and Wendy Stokowski, technology coordinator.
In addition, current Lincoln Elementary School Principal Mary Vogt will be the assistant principal and Small Wonders director at Washington Elementary in 2021-22.
In other business. the board:
— was told the last day of school for students will be Wednesday, May 28. The high school recognition ceremony will be the afternoon of May 28. A teacher’s institute is scheduled for June 1;
— approved extending the lease of two Sage vans by a year since the lease of new vans had gone up in price. Re-upping for a year will cost $6,916 per unit to renew, compared to $11,302 per van annually for a five-year lease on new vehicles; and
— was informed VFW Patriot’s Pen winners at MMS were Will Gravlin (first place), Makayla Harden (second) and Addison Dorjahn (third).
Gravlin was also named the winner for the region, which includes Piatt, Macon, DeWitt, Shelby and Christian counties;
— hired Jason Blum, Teri Brown and Karen Motsegood as summer movers; Ryan Olsen and Liam Sokolowski as technology summer workers; Katie Fulton, 6th/7th grade ELAM summer school; and Elizabeth Galbo, high school guidance secretary and media aide;
— approved the resignations of Nichole Graham as middle school talent show co-sponsor; and Paula Westburg as high school special education aide;
— approved the transfers of Erika Boman, from high school guidance secretary/media aide to high school secretary; and Nichole Graham, middle school English to high school English;
— approved the retirements of Amy Wolfe at the end of the 2020-21 school year; Marlise Dahl at the end of the 2021-22 school year and Wilbur Jones in 2023; and
— approved a maternity leave for Brittany Ransom.