UPDATE: Quincy High School has just announced that each senior will now be allowed six tickets for the May 28 graduation, up from four tickets.
A crowd of about 100 people filled the basement of Tower Pizza and Mexican Tuesday night as the Quincy Tea Party hosted a meeting to ask current and past members of the Quincy School Board about limits being placed on this year’s graduation at Quincy Senior High School.
Quincy School Board President Sayeed Ali, Vice-President Shelley Arns, and former School Board Vice-President Mike Troup, who just became Quincy’s mayor on Monday, took questions from the crowd, which featured both QTP members and guests. David Penn, QPS Legal Counsel, and Trent Lepper of Winters Insurance also appeared with the School Board members to provide assistance.
Ali began the discussion with details on how the school district put together its COVID plan, led by Superintendent Roy Webb. Webb was not at this meeting as he had a scheduling conflict.
Jennifer Wiemelt, who addressed last week’s School Board meeting and suggested some alternatives to increase graduation attendance, read questions provided by the audience. She has a senior who is graduating later this month, which prompted her to get involved.
Dr. Alan Richardson, who also has a QHS senior graduating this month, asked why 4 to 6 tickets was such a leap, as he needed five tickets for his family to attend.
“Transmission of this virus outdoors is extremely unlikely,” Richardson said. “We’re never going to get to zero. This virus is here forever. Masks reduce risk. Vaccines reduce risk. My family has done everything that has been asked. lf this is about liberty and freedom, when do I get to make my choice? I can’t mitigate my risk anymore than I have and my family is being punished.”
Penn said liability and litigation were the main issues. Todd Eyler, assistant Adams County state’s attorney, said he believed it would be very difficult for a litigant to prove causation in a claim.
Penn said the District had to follow the guidelines of the state and the courts have addressed that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Executive Orders regarding COVID give him the authority under the Illinois Emergency Management Act.
When asked about the possibility of two graduation ceremonies, Arns said they were told the seniors didn’t want two ceremonies and that they wanted to graduate together. QHS students have been split into two blocks for the entire 2020-21 school, with half attending each day.
UPDATE: But according to QHS Principal Jody Steinke, seniors were not asked for input regarding the possibility of two ceremonies.
“Our goal has been to provide as “normal” and traditional a ceremony as possible,” Steinke said in an e-mail response Wednesday morning. “A big part of that is keeping the entire class together, if possible. The capacity limit increase to 25% made a more traditional ceremony very doable. Once we were comfortable with a more traditional outdoor ceremony, we did not feel it necessary to do a survey regarding two ceremonies.”
Quincy Tea Party member Roni Quinn wanted to know why there was not more consideration given to parents who expressed their concerns about how the district was handling graduation.
“What you think might be right for your child might be right, but we are trying to represent the interests of more than 6,700 students,” Ali said.
In the end, there was a consensus that the administration, students and staff have all tried to make the best of a bad situation.
“We want to do the right thing, but when we have these conversations, we have to leave her respecting each other,” said QTP Board Member Steve McQueen. “But we’re not afraid of this thing (COVID), we’re more afraid of the government.”
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