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Independence, Lee’s Summit graduations moving to Children’s Mercy Park

Mike Genet
mike.genet@examiner.net
Graduate Tyler Zeller speaks to the William Chrisman High School graduating class last year during the ceremony at Community of Christ Auditorium. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Independence School District's graduation for its three high schools is being moved to Sporting Kansas City's Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, on July 11. Other area districts are also making new plans for in-person graduations.

The Independence and Lee’s Summit school districts will have their high school commencement ceremonies across the border.

Both districts announced Tuesday that high school graduations will be held next month at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, home of Sporting Kansas City, a Major League Soccer team. Independence Schools will have graduations July 11, a Saturday, while Lee’s Summit Schools will have graduations July 26.

Both districts, along with Fort Osage and Grain Valley normally hold graduations at Community of Christ Auditorium, but Jackson County’s current capacity restrictions due to the pandemic, if still in effect next month, would have prevented a ceremony with enough social distancing.

Fort Osage will instead have graduation July 31 outside in the district stadium, while Grain Valley will have graduation July 24 at the University of Central Missouri’s Multipurpose Building, in Johnson County.

Independence Superintendent Dale Herl said he was prepared to announce plans for a virtual graduation, and the Children’s Mercy Park plan came together in just one day. William Chrisman’s will be at 9 a.m., Van Horn at 10:30 a.m. and Truman at noon.

Lee’s Summit Schools had announced a plan earlier this week to have virtual graduations, and Herl said he was talking with them about virtual graduation ideas when he learned Sporting KC had offered to host LSSD ceremonies.

“Sporting had reached out to them and asked if they had interest,” Herl said. “I got their information, I called Sporting KC this morning, and they were willing to host.”

Independence’s graduation date at the Auditorium would have been July 18, but Herl said that date wasn’t an option at Children’s Mercy Park, and it was either that day or nothing.

“If this had not occurred, we would not have had another (in-person) option,” Herl said. “When they offered, I quickly got a hold of the school board.”

Herl said the district will arrange for some transportation for graduates, but Children’s Mercy Park personnel will handle logistics on grouping people with social distancing. The graduates will be seated on the field, and up to 2,500 people can be seated safely in the stadium. Normal capacity for soccer games is about 18,000.

“Our whole focus (with graduation) has tried to be family friendly and senior friendly,” Herl said. “We were within a day away of a virtual graduation, and I’m excited to give them this opportunity.”

The Blue Springs School District had rescheduled its high school graduations for July 19 at the usual location – Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City – and has not made any further announcement about graduation plans.