Schools announce socially-distanced graduation plans

Staff Report

SCIOTO — Every student looks forward to graduation, but with COVID-19 closing schools and distancing people away from one another this year’s graduation ceremonies were in doubt. But area schools have come up with plans to continue that tradition with the same pomp and circumstance that students have been expecting — just with a unique twist that only 2020 could deliver.

“This senior class has been faced with adversity since they were born under the shadow of Sept. 11, 2001, and now they’re graduating under the shadow of COVID-19,” said Green Superintendent Jodi Armstrong. “They’ve certainly had some challenges as they’ve grown up and every child deserves this accomplishment of a job well-done. So we want to be sure we can maintain some kind of traditional ceremony that is sort of a constant with all other graduates, and yet adapt in order to keep everyone safe and healthy.”

While the specifics of each district’s plan may vary slightly from one-another, many will bring students in one at a time to receive their diploma and have a photo taken as a limited number of family watches from a safe distance and then leave the school through a separate exit so the next student may be called. Families are asked to wait in their vehicle until their student’s turn. Students and families are also encouraged to wear a mask as they enter the building, though students can remove their mask for photos. Some districts are also planning parades through their community to celebrate the Class of 2020.

District plans have been approved by either the Scioto County Health Department or the Portsmouth City Health Department.

Many schools will also live stream their ceremony online for people to watch safely at home, and videos will be produced later with pre-recorded speeches.

Graduation dates, as of this moment are as follows:

Clay – May 24

Green – May 16-17

Minford – May 24

New Boston – May 15

Northwest – May 23

Portsmouth West – TBD

SciotoTech – May 30 Sciotoville – May 16

Valley – May 17

Vern Riffe School – Aug. 21

Wheelersburg – May 23

Bloom-Vernon seniors have decided to postpone their ceremony until later in the summer, in hopes that restrictions will be lifted to allow a traditional ceremony. If they are not, the school will host a virtual ceremony.

Oak Hill already had its limited in-person graduation ceremony on May 6-7, and will host an online premiere party for the public to view online on May 15 following their community parade.

The online video will include pre-recorded speeches and music pre-recorded by each member of the band and choir individually and then mixed together into one ensemble piece. The district also provided each senior with a Viewing Party Box with everything they need to host a graduation viewing party in their own home.

Oak Hill Superintendent Marci Shepard said the community was very pleased with this year’s unique graduation ceremony.

“Parents walked in and their jaws dropped. The stage was set so beautifully and there’s a long carpet for students to walk down. I think they were just grateful that we were trying to have a moment. It ended up being so special because I would stand next to parents that were crying or cheering. It’s like every student or parent had their own special moment,” Shepard said. “Every single person said thank you on their way out. There was no negative feedback. It was all appreciation and grateful that we were trying to make this special for the kids.”

Shepard also credited the collaboration of school districts sharing ideas and working together to help make this year’s graduation as normal as possible in an abnormal time.

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Staff Report