ANGOLA — Angola High School graduation will be held July 9.

Principal Travis Heavin told the Metropolitan School District of Steuben County Board of School Trustees Tuesday the date was chosen to meet guidelines set by Indiana’s Back on Track schedule. The fifth and final stage of Back on Track starts July 4, allowing groups of more than 250 people following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing protocol to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Graduation had originally been set for June 7. It is typically held at 2 p.m. in the high school gym.

Schools closed the week of March 16 and e-learning continued through the rest of the school year, which ends next week. Many typical high school observances and activities were canceled.

Commencement is the “biggest event of the school year,” said Heavin. He said the priority is to keep it safe while keeping tradition alive.

With 18-inch-wide chairs set 6 feet apart in the gym, Heavin said the event will allow two guests per senior. Graduation will be made available virtually for others who want to watch.

The July 9 date is set in stone, said Heavin, to allow parents and students to plan. The number one goal is safety, he said, and if there is a change in rules from state or local authorities that again limit crowds, graduation would likely be done virtually.

For those students leaving for school or military service prior to July 9, Heavin said one-on-one diploma presentation events could be scheduled.

This year’s seniors’ parents have made efforts to maintain some traditions and tributes.

Meagan Smith raised funds to erect a poster for every senior student.

“I will be working with Josh Kugler at Aardvark Sign Company to make a sign for each graduating senior,” she said. The display route has not yet been determined but will be set up in the next couple of weeks through Angola and near the school. After the posters are displayed, seniors will be able to pick them up and take them home as a memento.

“Thank you to all of those individuals, families, community groups and businesses that supported ‘Here is Your Sign’ for the Angola High School Class of 2020. COVID has effected everyone. This pandemic has no bias. I just wanted to give the kids a reason to smile,” said Smith. “For 12 years they have worked so hard. For many families this might be the first graduate or the last graduate of the family. ... In the big picture these kids know sacrifice and triumph. They were born into 9/11 and they are graduating in a pandemic.”

A parent group that includes Laura Leese and Christina Koher are planning a prom at Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn on Friday, July 31. While it is independent from MSD, school board President Cory Archbold applauded the efforts that have gone into making the 2020 senior year memorable.

“Not all schools did that,” Archbold said. “I am pretty impressed with how things have happened here.”

In other business, the board approved a slew of new hires, resignations and retirements.

“We had four outstanding employees announce their retirement. They are to be commended for their hard work and dedication to the school district,” said Superintendent Brent Wilson. “They will be missed.”

Elementary art teacher Steve Crain retired after 38 years. Also retiring were food service workers Cynthia Anstett and Donna Yarnelle and custodian Dale Cope.

Among new teachers at the high school, middle school and elementary levels, a district curriculum director and school nurse were hired. Replacing retiring curriculum director Cyndi Nusbuam is Schauna Relue, who holds a doctorate degree. The new district nurse is Jennifer Adkins.

“We are fortunate to be in the position to attract such high quality people to our school district,” said Wilson.

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