The end of spring is supposed to mark a celebratory time for high school seniors when they finish their exams, get their caps and gowns and walk across the graduation stage to receive their diploma.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders, an actual in-person event may not be possible. The “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order was extended until the end of May.
Mark Suchowski, Fenton High School principal, sent a presentation and a survey to all seniors and parents about these plans. The school sent out scholarship information May 12. For the seniors’ honors assembly, the school is organizing a Google slides presentation that will be posted at 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 27 to announce seniors’ achievements in academics, clubs and sports. On May 28 and 29, parents of seniors will be invited to a ‘drive-thru’ distribution of caps, gowns, yearbooks if seniors ordered one, and academic awards through recognition of senior honors. FHS administrators, teachers, counselors and staff will be in the bus loop in front of the building, wearing gloves and masks if necessary, to place all items for each senior in the trunk of cars as they drive through.
The planning committee for the baccalaureate ceremony will meet online starting May 18 to organize this event. They’re expected to share information with seniors by Thursday, May 28.
The school presented two options to seniors and parents for the graduation ceremony. One was to wait until in-person gatherings were allowed and host an in-person event. The second option, which will be used if the stay-at-home order is extended more, involves FHS staff filming all the normal graduation speeches in the gym.
Each senior will be allowed to have up to four family members accompany them into the gym as they walk across the stage and receive their diploma. Every graduate’s parents will be assigned the role of awarding their child their diploma on stage. Then, all filmed parts of the ceremony will be edited into one presentation/video that will be published for all to view on a date and/or at a venue to be determined.
An announcement will be made June 1 for this.
Possible plans for members of the Class of 2020 to celebrate their graduation at Project Graduation may include an alternate event at a date, time and location yet to be determined.
“The survey also asks seniors and their parents for their preference for how late into summer would seniors and parents be interested and available to participate in a traditional graduation ceremony, if we were allowed to hold such an event. We have had some folks indicate that after mid-July, many seniors will be ready to move on as they take first steps into their future plans,” Suchowski said.
Chris Belcher, Lake Fenton High School principal, said they remain hopeful that they can still honor graduates with an in-person ceremony at The Whiting.
“We have reserved June 20 and July 17 and are waiting to see where our state stands at that time,” he said. “The Whiting has shared options for what phase of release we are in at those times. We are also preparing for a virtual ceremony in the event we are not permitted to gather in person. We are in the process of recording speeches and putting the presentation together in case it is needed.”
Darin Dreasky, Linden High School principal, said he’s been in contact with school seniors and parents about their plans. He’s been looking at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders about mass gatherings and phases for opening the state.
They have plans for a virtual ceremony Saturday, June 13 for the baccalaureate ceremony in collaboration with Hope Lutheran Church. More information will be sent out as the date approaches.
On Sunday, June 14, the district plans to have a virtual commencement with awards and scholarships. The school is working to get scholarship information to families.
Dreasky said he and staff are coordinating with Project Graduation to drop off yard signs, and caps and gowns at the houses of school seniors Wednesday, May 20. They’re going to arrange goody bags for seniors, similar to what they would have received at Project Graduation.
When the shutdown began, many students left their lockers full of their belongings. Dreasky said if the stay-at-home order is lifted by then, they hope to open the school to allow students to get their belongings.
If possible, in the next few months, they also plan to set up a stage with a formal background at the school and have seniors walk across the stage and get a diploma and give family a chance to take photos.
“Even if it is a modified format, we certainly want to do that,” he said, adding that they would still follow proper social distancing guidelines. “We want them to walk across a stage in some form.”
Dreasky said they’re keeping in mind the health of their staff and the community, and many plans depend on the governor’s executive orders.
Scott Roper, Holly Area Schools superintendent, said, “We are continuing to work with our senior leaders on our final plan for a graduation ceremony. Within the next two weeks or sooner, we should have our final plan ready to share.”