CORONAVIRUS

Turning on the lights: Iowa City high schools honor the Class of 2020 during tough times

IOWA CITY — They might not get a spring sports season, might not get a summer sports season.

Prom might not be a possibility. Having another in-person class definitely is in doubt.

They very well could be cheated out of a formal graduation ceremony. That could be online only.

Celebratory grad parties might end up being postponed until later in the summer or just altogether canceled.

The kids in the senior class of 2020 around the state, around the nation, forever will be known as the kids in the COVID Class, and that’s completely and utterly unfair to them. No one deserves that.

Thus three of the four Iowa City high schools did something Wednesday night to honor them. It was a small gesture, but it came from the heart.

Iowa City West, Iowa City Liberty and Iowa City Regina turned on the lights to their outdoor athletics facilities for 20 minutes at 8:23 p.m. Classes for the school year began August 23, or 8/23, with the 20-minute duration coming from their graduation year.

“I would say that we are all being required to be creative, to find ways to stay connected,” said West Activities Director Craig Huegel. “Our co- and extra-curricular programs are a great way to connect with others, and we want to recognize our seniors who are coping with a reduction in those chances. We see them and celebrate them.”

Liberty Activities Director Mike Morrison said the idea for the tribute came after seeing some out-of-state schools had done it. Assistant Principal Justin Colbert has put together a Virtual Spirit Week for the school that is in its second week.

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“Today’s focus is on leadership, so we wanted to recognize our class of 2020,” Morrison said. “An article was floating around about some schools in Texas who ran their lights for their students. So it seemed like a very appropriate way to honor the class of 2020.”

The other Iowa City schools quickly jumped on board, though City High decided a couple ours before 8:23 not to turn on the lights to Bates Field, its football and track and field facility, because it became aware students were planning on gathering.

Liberty had a parade of cars drive through its parking lot to observe its football, baseball and softball lights, with many people honking their horns in support. No one was allowed to exit their vehicles.

“Seniors, hang in there, everybody. We love you. You are a great class,” City High Principal John Bacon tweeted. “You lead us through a lot. Keep following the direction of our nation’s experts. Social distancing is so important now. If we all work together, we can get back together sooner. We will honor our seniors!”

Regina also decided to participate in the tribute at the last second. Activities Director Bryce Smeins said some seniors sat in their vehicles and watched.

“This was for all the seniors,” he said. “They were appreciative of the opportunity, did a good job of social distancing. I’m hopeful the teams get a chance to participate this spring and summer.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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