The Washington Court House City School (WCHCS) District announced its plans over the weekend to honor the class of 2020 while still maintaining social distancing due to COVID-19.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine last week clarified that high school graduations can’t be permitted if they amount to mass gatherings. The Republican governor said the most preferred option is a virtual ceremony conducted online, followed by a drive-in ceremony allowing students to arrive at designated locations at designated times to pick up a diploma, followed by gatherings of 10 people or fewer. In addition to the governor’s decision, the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) gave guidance last week, informing districts they should hold off on a traditional graduation ceremony for the class and instead try to hold these events virtually or try alternate plans.
With all of this in mind, WCHCS Director of Marketing and Communication Trevor Patton shared the district’s efforts to honor the class appropriately.
“First, we want to say how thankful we are for each of you,” Patton said in a letter to the class of 2020 recently. “You have endured and will continue to endure a very difficult season in your final year as a student in the Blue Lion Family. We know that you have looked forward to the month of May, 2020, for quite some time. Your class is very special to us, and we were also looking forward to honoring you, celebrating your many accomplishments, and sending you off to light up your corner of the world. However, it seems a worldwide pandemic had other plans. Over the past 143 years, our commencement exercises have adjusted, moving venues, buildings, and rituals involved. The one thing that has not changed, however, is ensuring that our students are celebrated in a meaningful way. While the 144th graduation at Washington High School may look a little different than those in the past, we will continue to give your class the proper recognition and honors you have earned while maintaining adherence to the health and safety restrictions currently in place to slow the spread of this nasty virus.”
Patton said the celebration of the class began with the placing of yard signs in each senior’s yard and an effort from the district to lead the community into a “Be The Light” night for the graduating students.
“This weekend, we were supposed to be celebrating the Roaring Twenties on the dance floor,” Patton said. “While we won’t be dancing the night away together, we will be celebrating at home. Join us on the district Facebook to see the announcement of the prom royalty this Saturday at 7 p.m., as well as join us in a virtual prom, whether it be sharing photos in your dress, past prom photos, or how you’re enjoying the night at home with your family, by posting on our social media pages, as well as your own.”
Patton then shared the timeline of events for the next few weeks. Beginning on Wednesday, May 13 and Thursday May 14 from 9 a.m. until noon, the students will have the opportunity to pick up their cap and gown, pay any fees left over to the district and return laptops. For computer return, students with the last name “A to H” will report to the middle school gym lobby, students with last name “I to Q” will report to Liberty Hall, and students with the last name “R to Z” will report to the high school gym lobby. Those students that need to pick up their caps and gowns or settle their account need to see Kylie in the main office.
“On Friday, May 15, we will hold our traditional Senior Breakfast and Senior Assembly virtually, at 7 and 8 a.m. as scheduled,” Patton said. “Since we cannot gather for a meal in person, the day before our team will be delivering breakfast to all of our seniors across town to be placed in the refrigerator at home and reheat the next day. We invite everyone to wake up and join us on Facebook for the class histories, superlative awards, and a few fun surprises from our staff. More details about the breakfast delivery will be coming soon. After breakfast, we will roll right into the Senior Assembly at 8 a.m. We will be joined virtually by the faculty and staff of Washington High School who will recognize our students’ many special accomplishments, followed by the Senior Slideshow. We invite everyone in our community to get up early, make some breakfast, and join us for this special time of remembering the great times our students have had as Blue Lions, and recognize their achievements.”
Patton explained this will kick off a week of “Senior Send Offs” where the district will share submitted pictures and accomplishments of all of the seniors across social media.
Next, each senior will have the opportunity to graduate in person in the Washington High School gymnasium. Students will be given a scheduled time slot on one of the following days: May 18, 19, 20, or 21. Seniors may bring up to five guests to join them in this special ceremony, where they will be announced, walk across the graduation platform, and receive their diploma. Scholarships, awards, flowers and a few more surprises will be distributed during this time. To ensure that every senior gets their opportunity to celebrate this momentous occasion with their family in a safe manner, it is imperative that the schedule and guidelines are strictly followed. Specific information for each individual student and their time slot will be emailed to them on Monday.
Finally, on May 22 at 7 p.m., the district is asking the community to come together at home to join its 134th commencement exercises on the district’s Facebook page. A video compilation of the ceremony, complete with speeches, music, and all of the regular graduation fanfare will be broadcast during the regularly-scheduled time and the district encourages everyone in the community to join them for this event.
“While these plans are different than we had envisioned when you began the school year, these plans allow us to fully celebrate the Class of 2020 while adhering to the mandated social distancing guidelines established by the order of the Governor,” Patton said. “Blue Lions are resilient, and the Class of 2020 has been a leading example of that resiliency throughout this process that the rest of our students and even our staff have found inspiration in. As you go on to ‘be the light’ in your corner of the world, we are confident that you will do great things and continue to make the Blue Lion Family proud. Our deepest Congratulations and Gratitude to the Washington High School Class of 2020! We look forward to celebrating with you soon.”
The information in this article was provided by WCHCS Director of Marketing and Communication Trevor Patton. Stay with the Record-Herald for more coverage of graduation of the class of 2020.
Reach Martin Graham on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.