Shawe Memorial High School will host an in-person graduation for seniors June 21, according to a letter Prince of Peace Schools sent to families last week.

The parochial school district is the latest in Jefferson County to announce graduation plans during the COVID-q9 pandemic, with Madison Consolidated High School holding a face-to-face ceremony July 26. Southwestern High School took a more cautious approach last week, recording its seniors walking across stage in separate time windows for a virtual graduation video to be broadcast May 29 on Madison TV 15.

Shawe’s plans are more immediate and set aside a backup date of July 19 in case the state isn’t able to meet reopening goals by late June. As projected, Stage 4 of the Back on Track Indiana plan would start June 14 and allow for gatherings of up to 250 people. Stage 3 of the plan currently allows for gatherings up to 100 people, above the capacity even a small school like Shawe could hold.

"This schedule has been discussed with school leadership, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and the Jefferson County Health Department,” the letter stated.

Each graduate will receive up to eight tickets for family and friends, which will be requested by RSVP and checked at the door on graduation day. Graduates are asked to arrive at the same time as their guests and not show up too early as seating will be worked out ahead of time.

The school will predetermine seating for each group based on random drawings and seat them in different taped-off sections to encourage safe social distancing. Graduates will also be seated six feet apart during the ceremony. The exception is for winners of the Senior Package at the school’s dinner auction held on Feb. 29, who will receive a preferred front row seat, according to Prince of Peace.

To make this year’s graduation more special, students may pick one or two family members they invite to stand on stage and hand them their diploma. Masks for guests and faculty are strongly encouraged, according to the letter.

Prince of Peace President Phil Kahn said the proposal came down to both safety and wanting to make up for a rough year for families. He also hopes Shawe can host the graduation in June before one of its student leaves for military basic training in July.

“It’s been really difficult as you can imagine, just trying to come up with ideas to make it really nice for the kids and the parents. It’s been a rough year for everybody,” Kahn said. “And then rather than us handling them and touching all of them, gloves or not, we’re going have the parents do it; we thought that would be touching.”

However, there will be no reception this year as graduates will be asked to individually leave the gym after ceremonies end and join up with their guests. Once one group exits, the next graduate will be called.

Kahn said a cap toss and family photos afterwards will most likely be in order, but students and guests are then encouraged to file out of the building instead of congregating and socializing.

Another big change this year will be no appearance from the Archbishop. For years the Archbishop of Indianapolis has attended to speak at Shawe’s baccalaureate program, but Kahn said the Indianapolis Diocese adopted travel regulations during the pandemic and decided not to speak this year in person or over a web-conferencing app.

Also modified is the senior slideshow shown at every Shawe baccalaureate. Because Shawe is trying to adhere to a shorter ceremony for safety reasons, the slideshow will instead be shown on a digital platform, Prince of Peace said in the letter.

Despite the necessary modifications, Kahn said holding a face-to-face graduation was a high hope for the school.

“The biggest thing we talked about is with graduation, for most people, you hear them say it’s walking across the stage. And we didn’t want to take that away from all of them, if at all possible and if we could do it safely, and so that’s what we decided,” Kahn said.