SCIOTO COUNTY — The graduating class of 2020 has missed out on many traditional experiences, as they remain home for weeks during the COVID-19 outbreak. As Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday that schools would not return this year, communities throughout the area rallied together that evening to celebrate their graduating seniors.
All throughout Ohio, schools lit up their stadiums and facilities for 20 minutes at 8:20 p.m. on April 20, 2020, to celebrate the class of 2020. While people were forced to stay inside their cars, some communities held parades and other social distanced events.
Valley High School, for example, lit up their school and stadium as cars paraded around the school parking lot. So many cars participated that what might typically be a 30-second drive took nearly 20 minutes to complete one pass around the building.
“Our students and parents really stepped up. We had probably 200-300 cars in our parking lot, and the fire department and highway patrolmen led them around that loop,” Valley Superintendent Scott Rolfe said.
South Webster, meanwhile, doesn’t have a high school football stadium to light up, so instead the community came together to sit in the main parking lot and light up the school with their car headlights. At 8:20 exactly, the sound system played the school fight song, followed by an applause of honking horns.
“I think it was really good, not only for our seniors but for all of our students and the people in the community. It was nice just to see a face. Even though we were still far apart and in our cars, it was still nice to physically see each other and be in the same place,” said South Webster Teacher Megan Large.
She said it can be a struggle to abruptly end the year the way it was this year – for students and teachers alike – and the event on Monday evening was a way to bring them back together and maybe find some closure.
“I think it’s really hard on parents too. A lot of parents either have their first senior graduating or their last senior graduating, and that’s a milestone for the parents as much as it is for the kids,” Large said.
One of the parents is Amanda Ottney, whose oldest son Brice is a graduating senior at Wheelersburg High School – where seniors parked in the lot while cars drove past honking and cheering with their cars decorated. She hopes that students will still be able to experience their graduation ceremony later this summer, but right now she said the celebration
“It was really nice to get to see the community come out and show all the seniors their support,” Ottney said. “They get to experience something that probably nobody else will get to experience.”
Brice agreed with his mother, calling it a great experience.
“I looked at one of my buddies and told him that I feel like that’s going to become like a tradition at Wheelersburg. It seemed like everyone enjoyed being together. All the seniors enjoyed seeing each other there,” he said.
Similar events played out throughout Ohio last night, with more local schools such as New Boston, Clay, Minford, Green, Oak Hill, Paint Valley, Portsmouth, Sciotoville, West, and Northwest all participating.
For more information about the South Central Ohio ESC, find them online at www.scoesc.org, or follow the ESC on Facebook and Twitter.
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