VASD Graduation Class of 2019

Graduates toss their caps in the air during the Verona Area High School graduation ceremony on Sunday, June 9, at Epic.

Verona Area High School seniors will cram a year’s worth of milestone events – Homecoming, prom and graduation all partially or fully held outdoors – into a three-week time frame starting at the end of May.

That update from high school principal Pam Hammen and senior adviser Rita Mortenson was marked on the agenda for discussion only at the Verona Area Board of Education’s Monday, April 5, meeting and did not require a vote from the board.

The events are easier to plan because of the new Public Health Madison and Dane County’s loosening of restrictions on outdoor events to an unspecified number as long as social distancing can still occur in Emergency Order No. 15, Hammen explained.

The possibility of having an unlimited number of people outdoors, as long as social distancing can occur, makes events like prom at the end of May and a graduation ceremony at the new high school on Saturday, June 12, more feasible, Hammen told board members.

Holding graduation indoors at Epic’s Deep Space auditorium, as has been done for the past decade, would be an option if indoor gathering restrictions are loosened, Hammen said. The rain date for the graduation ceremony will be Sunday, June 13.

“What did change is the ability to have outdoor gatherings, and really, that number is unlimited as long as we can ensure that six feet of social distancing,” she said. “The best option for graduation is to have it outdoors, because then we can keep all of our seniors together, and they can invite their family and their friends.”

Last year, high school administrators had moved the date of graduation back into late July, with the hope that by the summer, the COVID-19 pandemic would let up enough to permit the Class of 2020 to have an in-person graduation ceremony. It didn’t, so those students had a pre-recorded graduation video broadcast to them they could watch at home.

A seniors-only prom would kick off the three-week sprint of milestone events, with the dance scheduled for Saturday, May 22, at the high school. Depending on how many of the nearly 400-person senior class attend, the prom could be held indoors if attendance is less than 350, per PHMDC indoor gathering limits; if it’s more, prom would be held outside on campus.

Regardless of where the prom is held at the high school, masks will still be required for all attendees and dancing will have to be done in a socially distanced manner, Hammen said.

It was for that reason the junior class declined to hold its prom this year, Hammen said, with the hope that next year, the class will also have a seniors-only prom that won’t require social distancing or face masks.

“They’d rather dance closer and not wear masks,” Hammen said, garnering laughs from board members.

The following week, May 24-28, is Homecoming Week, where there won’t be a large school-wide dance to cap the week off, but there will be Dress Up Days and activities such as an outdoor movie and scavenger hunt through the high school forest, Mortenson said. The senior class trip is being planned for Friday, May 28, and students would either go to a county park or stay on campus, Hammen added.

Board members, including the three who have high school seniors in their family, thanked high school administration for scheduling milestone events for the district’s oldest students.

“We really appreciate that you are doing all of this work to make sure that there’s something special for senior year to wrap up with,” board member Meredith Stier Christensen said. “There’s something about seeing everybody you may not be best friends with, but you’ve been in school with since kindergarten.”

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.

News Editor

Kimberly Wethal joined Unified Newspaper Group in 2018, where she serves as the news editor for four publications and primarily covers the Verona Area School District and the City of Fitchburg. She previously was an intern with UNG starting in 2013.