Cooper County schools are gearing up to hold graduation ceremonies in June.


New Franklin will hold its ceremony 2 p.m. June 20. Pilot Grove plans a 7:30 p.m. ceremony June 12, while Bunceton will hold its graduation June 27. If further postponements are needed, Pilot Grove plans on June 26, while Bunceton will hold its ceremony July 18. Prairie Home plans to announce its graduation plans after Wednesday’s board of education meeting.


New Franklin will hold its ceremony in the high school gymnasium. Attendance will be limited to 10 people per family group, which will be spaced 6 feet apart. The school’s 27 graduates also will be seated six feet apart.


The smaller class size and the gymnasium’s size means the school can hold an indoor ceremony, Principal Benji Dorson said.


“We talked about having it outside but you never know, and it could be hot on June 20,” he said.


The district originally planned for May 10, Mother’s Day, but as plans were developed it became apparent that could not happen.


“We wanted to try and have graduation as normal as possible,” Dorson said. “That’s the one thing this class really wanted. They missed out on so many things this spring but the one thing they really wanted was to try and have graduation in the gym.”


The school district has more control over an indoor ceremony, he said. The ceremony will not have to be canceled or postponed in case of inclement weather.


Biology teacher Greg Early is the commencement speaker. The valedictorian and salutatorian will be announced during graduation.


The district has not yet determined how it will distribute diplomas.


“We are going to have them come up across the stage and at least get their round of applause,” Dorson said.


Students may pick up diplomas or will wear gloves to receive them.


Pilot Grove will hold its ceremony at the high school ball field. If the June 26 rain date is needed, the ceremony will take place at 7 p.m.


“We will have our stage placed on the field and follow the appropriate distancing and social guidelines set forth by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], Governor’s office, and Cooper County Public Health officials,” Superintendent Ashley Groepper said.


Twenty-three will graduate during the commencement ceremony. Landon Daniel was chosen as the commencement speaker. Senior class representative Cole will give a speech, as well.


Families are limited to a group of 10 and will have be spaced according to social distance requirements. Additional seating is available in the bleachers, but guests will need to maintain social distancing, Groepper said.


Reopening requirements in Phases 1 and 2 by Gov. Mike Parson and social distancing requirements meant the district had to hold an outdoor ceremony. It typically is held in the high school gymnasium, but it is too small to maintain distance requirements.


“Therefore, in conversations with Melanie Hutton at CCPH, it was determined that an outside ceremony was the best solution,” Groepper said.


The district wants to hold as normal a ceremony as possible and that it still is memorable for seniors.


“This is certainly not how we thought the spring of the 2019-20 school year would go, but our seniors are resilient and have proven they will persevere in tough times,” Groepper said.


The school district also will livestream the ceremony through its Facebook page and/or YouTube.


Bunceton has 11 seniors. Details for commencement are not yet determined. The district has taken very careful considerations to remain within CDC and Cooper County Public Health Center recommendations, Superintendent Kathryn Anderson said.


The graduation date, and its potential postponement date are subject to the status of COVID-19 reopening phases and social distancing rules, she added.


"We will wait until closer to the event to consider the time, place and circumstances [amid] county/state recommendations,“ she said.