Adjust, adapt, and overcome: How schools are tackling graduation in the time of social distancing

By: National School Choice Week Team

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With the school year winding down, there is a strange stillness in the air in the absence of the pomp, circumstance, and tradition of graduation festivities.  For seniors, this time of year is typically filled with field trips, prom, yearbook signings, and graduation ceremonies.  But what about the class that has faced an unprecedented senior year? Will they get the opportunity they have worked for, to walk across that stage and celebrate with their peers? What does a socially distant graduation look like? 

48 of the 50 states, including D.C., have ordered or recommended schools close for the remainder of the academic year.  While it may not be the graduation ceremony that they had planned on, and not the one you see in TV and movies, schools around the country are putting on their thinking caps to come up with innovative ways to recognize their seniors: by car, computer, community advertising, and even chair-lift!

 

   

 

Socially-Distant Graduations

By now, everyone has heard the term “social distancing.” Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, social distancing requires you stay at least 6 feet from other people, don’t gather in groups, and that you stay out of crowded places.  Sounds just like a graduation ceremony, right?  Schools have had to adapt their traditional ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ ceremonies to meet these requirements.

For some schools in Nevada, this means delaying graduation ceremonies until they can be safely held.  Bishop Gorman High School, a private Catholic school in Nevada, has decided to hold graduation events in mid-July.  Seniors at the University of Nevada will be allowed to come back and graduate with the Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 ceremonies. 

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Leadership Prep School in Frisco, Texas has determined that the best way for them to still have graduation is an outdoor ceremony.  They will use their parking lot and plan to set chairs eight feet apart.  While masks and gloves will be optional for students, they plan to make the ceremony itself contactless.  A staff member with gloves will put each student’s diploma on a table and then step back as the students walk by to get it.

To address social distancing in New Hampshire, Kennett High School is utilizing a nearby ski resort! Cranmore Mountain Resort agreed to host the commencement.  Seniors will take a ride up the ski lift, leaving an empty chair between each student, to get their diploma and take a picture at the top of the mountain. 

 

Virtual Graduations

Like the delivery of instruction, many graduation ceremonies have made the jump to the virtual world.  Broward County Public Schools is hosting virtual graduations for each of their high schools.  The virtual graduations, which will include speeches and senior roll-call, will stream on YouTube and be broadcast on TV.

Louisville High School in Ohio is taking a pre-recorded approach to graduation.  Speeches that would be typically given during the ceremony are being pre-recorded.  The school is also handing out diplomas through designated times.  Seniors and family members (wearing masks) come during their time slot, walk across the stage, and receive their diploma.  Once all speeches and walks have been recorded, they will be compiled into one video and shared during the school’s original graduation date.

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Graduation-by-Car

One solution for having a graduation while social distancing?  Staying in your car!  Many schools are turning to vehicles to provide students with a ceremony while keeping them safe.

North Salem Middle High School in New York was determined to find a way to still honor the Class of 2020.  Their solution? A drive-in theater!  The speeches would be broadcast through the venue’s FM station and any video the school creates could be shown on the big screen.  Mansfield Christian School in Ohio is also utilizing a drive-in set up for their ceremony in a parking lot.  All spectators will remain in their vehicles and students will be summoned up to receive their diplomas.  A FM transmitter will broadcast all audio to the cars. 

The Nampa School District is taking more of a drive-thru approach to graduation.  Different schools within the district are having their seniors participate in a celebration parade, remaining in their vehicles to maintain social distancing.  Union High School has shared that guests can sit on the grass outside the school, maintaining social distancing, as each graduate drives by and is recognized by name.  Guilford County Schools in North Carolina is also taking the drive-thru angle for graduation

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Community Recognition

While graduation ceremonies themselves may be in limbo, schools are going above and beyond to make sure that their seniors still feel the love. 

On Track Academy honored their seniors by hanging their graduation photos on the fence at the school.  They plan to leave the photos up until the senior class has a drive-through viewing, then they will give the signs to the graduate.  In Minnesota, St. Peter High School is taking senior photos and inserting a graduation special section into an edition of the St. Peter Herald. The newspaper has also added a virtual graduation section to its website.

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KOAA News5 in Southern Colorado has also taken to the internet to recognize 2020 graduates.  They put a form on their website as part of their Congrats to Grads campaign. Family and friends can fill out the website form with photos and information about a graduate. The profile will be added to a Congrats to Grads gallery and could be used on-air and online!

The Utica Academy of Science Charter School congratulated their seniors while maintaining social distancing.  Teachers and school administrators decorated their cars with signs and messages on the windows.  They then drove by each senior student’s home to recognize the hard work and dedication they put into their academic career. 

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Has your school come up with a creative way to recognize the Class of 2020?  Want to share your alternative graduation plans with us?  Send us a message at info@schoolchoiceweek.com to let us know!

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