During a press conference Friday, area principals announced that all four Van Wert County schools (Crestview, Lincolnview, Vantage and Van Wert) will hold virtual graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Administration from the four schools worked with the Van Wert Health Department and with guidance from the Ohio Department of Education to come to a conclusive plan.
Over the next few weeks, schools will be asking seniors and family members to come into their perspective buildings to be recorded. Each student will be able to dress in their graduation gowns and receive their diplomas. They will walk across a stage, move their tassel after receiving their diploma, and will get their photo taken with their family. The format of the recordings will follow the traditional graduation ceremony and will include traditional speeches from students.
Social distancing guidelines laid out by the State prohibit more than 10 people from gathering, which was a major factor when making the decision to hold a virtual ceremony. With that in mind, schools will only be able to allow a limited number of family members to participate in the video. With a videographer, photographer, superintendent, board member, principal, and graduate needed for the ceremony, that leaves the ability for seniors to have up to four family members participate with them.
Each graduation ceremony will be aired during the school’s slated time and date for their 2020 graduation. Lincolnview seniors are the first to graduate in the county. On May 17 at 2 p.m., the school's graduation video will be shared on Lincolnview's website and social media platforms.
“We are one or two weeks ahead of our county counterparts; we really felt like we needed to get moving on this right away,” said Lincolnview High School Principal Brad Mendenhall who noted that his district has been in contact with seniors and parents to keep them up-to-date.
“We’re trying to look out for what’s best for not only our own schools but for each other and our community and keeping everybody safe,” added Mendenhall. “I feel bad for our seniors that they have to experience stuff like this at this time when they want to have the ability to get together and have some closure, but we’re really working hard to keep some graduation traditions alive while being able to celebrate the groups collectively and individually.”
Vantage Career Center has moved their senior award ceremony to Friday, May 22 and will share the video on social media as well.
“We wanted to put something special together for our seniors to honor them and their achievements,” said Vantage High School Director Mike Knott.
Van Wert High School plans to release their graduation video to their website and social media on Sunday, May 24 at 2 p.m. Van Wert High School Principal Bob Priest noted that what is usually a one to one and a half-hour ceremony will now take schools 20 or more hours to create. As a result of that, schools will use the next several weeks to schedule sessions for recording.
“We’re trying to make this as much of a traditional ceremony as possible,” said Priest. “I think the seniors are doing a great job of working through emotions. I think they are struggling; a lot has been taken away from them.”
“It’s hurtful; it’s emotional,” added Priest of the current situation. “We’ve all got great kids; they’re all going to work through it. We’ve got great families with great support that are going to help them, but it still hurts. I feel for them, I really do.”
Crestview High School plans to release their gradation video on Saturday, May 30 online. Crestview High School Principal Dave Bowen, like the other principals, thanked everyone for working together.
“We have worked diligently and collectively to try to give our seniors the best opportunity to experience gradation in a way that we hope that they can remember as a positive piece at the end of their careers,” said Bowen. “We do feel that we have a plan, collectively, that we have shared with our seniors and their parents, and we are very appreciative of their understanding that we’re trying to do what we can to give the seniors something special with the challenges that we’re faced with.”
Bowen noted that earlier in the week schools thought that they may have been able to pull off some form of social distancing in-person ceremony, but with further guidance, they learned that was not a viable route. Priest also noted that over the past few weeks direction was all over the place from the State.
On Thursday afternoon, the schools met with the health department through Zoom who explained that with the State’s strict social guidelines in place, it would be extremely difficult to hold any sort of in-person ceremony. The Ohio Department of Education sent out a letter last week urging schools to choose virtual routes and asked them to not push ceremonies off later into the year.
“Collectively, we’ve been in communication county-wise, we’ve been in communication with principals from schools nearby Van Wert County, and we’ve been in communication within our conferences talking to other principals,” said Bowen. “This is a decision that we have not come about lightly in any way shape or form.”
Students who were set to be awarded scholarships during a senior award ceremony will be recognized during the virtual graduation ceremony. Several of the schools also plan to provide their graduates with flash drives of the ceremony to keep.
Further information will be released in the coming weeks to seniors and parents in regard to when they will be scheduled to be videotaped at their schools.
Original article courtesy of Times Bulletin