ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Illinois’ State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carmen Ayala announced Wednesday plans of any kind of in-person graduation ceremonies for the end of the school year are prohibited.

Dr. Ayala’s message read, in part:

“We have reached the page on our calendars where practically every square held some milestone – awards ceremonies, team banquets, parties, prom, and the biggest milestone of all: graduation.

“We need to remember that no matter how devastating it feels to miss these sacred rites of spring, the health and safety of our students, families, and communities must remain our top priority.

“Therefore, in-person graduation ceremonies of any kind are not allowed at this time. This directive extends to drive-through graduation ceremonies or events where students come in small groups to the school or another location for a photo or to walk across a stage. The Governor’s extended stay-at-home order prohibits group gatherings. I join you in hoping that events can resume in person sooner rather than later, but that time is not now.

“Schools and districts across the state have shown incredible creativity over the past few weeks. I have complete faith in your ability to honor graduates through safe, virtual ceremonies and celebrations.

“Meanwhile, it’s imperative that you continue to connect with all your students. They are missing the comfort of a structured routine. They are missing the social safety net provided by teachers and friends, who noticed if they were “down” or struggling or sad. They are missing those moments of discovery, when their academics or their extracurricular activities revealed some talent or strength they didn’t even know they had.”

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Julianna Stratton is hosting a virtual town hall Thursday on Twitter and Facebook with youth from across the state, focusing on mental health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students and educators are encouraged to join the livestream 6 – 7 pm to ask questions and share ideas using the hashtag #LGYOUTH.

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