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COVID-19 alters Albert Lea graduation plans

Miguel Octavio
Updated: July 15, 2020 10:55 PM
Created: July 15, 2020 10:37 PM

(ABC 6 News) - A new chapter lies ahead at the Jim Gustafson Field in Albert Lea. 
 
"I'm excited, I'm nervous, I don't really know what to expect," said Marissa Vogt.
 
Vogt is one of more than 200 graduates who will soon get their high school diplomas but not in traditional fashion.
 
"I'm excited just to see how it's going to play out. A little sad, too. Just because I don't get to graduate with all of my classmates," Vogt said. "It's not ideal but it's still a ceremony and we still get to say our goodbyes."
 
Albert Lea Area Schools' graduation ceremony will be split into two and graduates may only bring two guests due to health concerns from COVID-19. The school board spent months finalizing plans with input from local public health and law enforcement. 
 
"What's going to be best? What's going to be implemented so these students can get something more than, 'Good job?'" said Kim Nelson, a member of the school board.
 
Nelson's daughter, the youngest of her children, will also graduate.
 
"I really want people to know that I'm right with them. This is not ideal. This isn't the way we wanted it but we feel like our district has really looked at the emotion and the practicality of what can happen," Nelson said.
 
The community has shown up by posting pictures of graduates and signs of encouragement around town.
 
Vogt said little things like that make a big difference amid this pandemic.
 
"Graduating in this time... it will make our graduation so much more special," Vogt said.
 
School board members said while the stadium has a lot of space to offer, it doesn't meet health guidelines. The stadium will be sanitized between each ceremony and masks are available.
 
Graduation will be held on July 24 and will be live-streamed.

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