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Graduation and COVID

and Dave Bellomo

High school graduation has always been an anticipated and nostalgically regarded rite of passage for students and their families, but this year this has been turned on its head because of the restrictions produced by the COVID-19 health crisis. We at Webb Weekly have contacted the high schools in the area to find out how each is handling this.

Muncy High School Principal Timothy Welliver said that Muncy is dealing with it this way.

Graduation will be on an individual basis on the front lawn of Muncy High School in 15-minute intervals, except the top five graduates who will be on 30-minute intervals so they can complete their speeches. The order of graduation will be the top five and then in alphabetical order.

Dates and times of commencement are June 5th from noon to 5 p.m., June 8th, from noon to 5 p.m., and June 9th from noon to 5 p.m. “Graduates will be limited to 15 guests, so we remain under the number of 25 total for the three days of ceremonies. No tickets will be required because there will only be 15 chairs set up for guests. June 10th will be a rain date if the weather forces us to cancel a day of commencement. We chose to keep our graduation on the front lawn due to tradition knowing that the weather could force us to change, but we felt the Class of 2020 deserves to graduate on our front lawn after all they have been through.

“We are still tentatively planning an in-person whole class graduation ceremony on August 7th at 6 p.m.,” Welliver told Webb Weekly. “We would need public gatherings allowed to be 250 people on August 7th and for Lycoming County to be in the green phase. Since we are not certain of the likelihood of when this may happen, we chose to do the individual/family style commencement to ensure we have the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of all our seniors.”

According to Montgomery Area High School Principal, Joseph Stoudt, this will be Montgomery’s approach.

“On Friday, June 5th, 2020, I am asking that all seniors report to the MACC by 5:45 p.m. in their cap and gown, where you will remain in your vehicles (only one vehicle will be permitted per family — who’s in the vehicle is up to you). Promptly at 6 p.m., we will be announcing graduates individually and allowing them to walk across the stage to receive their diploma cover. Diploma certificates will be mailed home to all seniors meeting the graduation requirements along with scholarship/award checks on June 5th. I have arranged for GoPhoto to be there that evening, and the event will be live-streamed on the district website. Senior families will be provided with digital copies of the photographs at no charge. For health and safety reasons, I am asking that only the senior exit the vehicle when his/her name is announced. When all students have been announced, we will be processing from the MACC by way of the high school and ending at the Pike Drive-In Theatre. Once at the drive-in, at approximately 9:00 p.m., we will be showing the senior video (this will last approximately 1 hour). Restroom facilities will be open, and families are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing during the showing of the video. A program for the celebration will be available on the district website on the day of the event. The video will also be uploaded to our YouTube channel after the initial screening.”

Hughesville High School will be honoring the graduates of the “Class of 2020” on June 3rd at the Hughesville Fair Grounds at 7 p.m. The evening will feature a video production that will include all of the traditional graduation speeches, such as Class Valedictorian, Salutatorian, and Class President. The traditional yearbook dedication will also be a part of the evening’s festivities.

Students have been pre-recorded individually receiving their diplomas so families will be able to watch their child receive their diploma. Also included in the production will be a video created by seniors and our student council featuring student-designed graduation caps. The evening will also feature a few video surprises. The district has been working with a production company to produce the video.

Students will be able to watch the presentation on a large LCD screen in a “drive-in” atmosphere, and anyone not in attendance will be able to watch online. The link to watch the production will be posted on the district webpage closer to June 4th. Entrance to the event is by ticket only. In order to ensure that all can see the screen, vehicles will be limited to the size of an SUV or smaller. Vehicles will be allowed to enter the fairgrounds beginning at 6:30 p.m. through the 3rd Street entrance.

As of press time, Montoursville school officials have not determined how their graduation will proceed. This may be because they are still hoping that Lycoming County will be placed in the “Green Phase” of Governor Wolf’s lockdown protocol. If this county is in the “Green” that opens up more possibilities for the graduation ceremonies.

In the Warrior Run School District, according to High School Principal Mark Walter, Warrior Run will be holding their graduation ceremony on Friday, June 5th, at 6:30 p.m. The ceremony will be held outdoors with rain dates of June 6th at 6:30 p.m. and June 7th at 2 p.m. The ceremony will start in the back parking lot with students in their vehicles with family members. Speeches will be held in the back parking lot and broadcast through a designated Facebook Live page. From there, students and family members, in their vehicles, will drive down to the football stadium. Students will receive their diplomas through a “drive thru” graduation ceremony. Student names will be announced over the stadium’s public address. This portion of the ceremony will also be broadcast via Facebook Live.

Milton High School Principal, Andrew Rantz described what Milton will be doing.
“The June 4th ceremony will be a combination of a pre-recorded graduation ceremony that includes speeches and a slideshow of all graduating seniors.

“We will then hold a Drive-Thru graduation titled “Ride Into Your Future”, where each senior will come to the High School Football stadium, drive into the stadium and onto the track, and take a lap around while having their name/information announced over the loudspeaker. We will end the event with a fireworks display.”

Jersey Shore Area School District – According to a letter sent to each graduate, in accordance with the statewide COVID-19 school shutdown, graduation ceremonies for the 2019-2020 school year must follow guidelines set forth by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Department of Health. “Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 school closures, we are not able to proceed with graduation ceremonies as they have occurred in the past. However, the 2019-20 Graduation Plan provides an opportunity for our students to realize prestige and recognition by walking across the stage in honor of their achievement as a high school student and graduate of Jersey Shore.”

The Jersey Shore Area School District Senior High School graduation ceremony will take place on June 6th, beginning at 9 a.m. with social distancing rules in place. A drive-up ceremony with staggered times will take place with riders in vehicles being limited to graduates and immediate family members. Graduates must stay in their vehicles until the graduate enters the staging area, where the parent or guardian will stop at the designated area near the stage. The graduate will then approach the stage where their name will be announced and where there will be an opportunity to take pictures. The event will be both live-streamed and recorded.

South Williamsport -South Williamsport will be holding a ‘Virtual Graduation’. Students will arrive at the school at staggered times on June 2nd and 3rd and be allowed five guests each. To maintain social distancing, they are inviting parents to hand their child their diploma on the stage. Administration will read the student’s name and have the diploma ready to receive. They are open to the possibility of a formal graduation later this summer if restrictions allow.

Williamsport Area School District – Williamsport Area School District plans to graduate over 320 seniors this year by having a “drive-through” graduation ceremony on June 4th beginning at 6 p.m. Students will arrive at the time indicated on their colored cards. Only one vehicle will be allowed will be allowed per graduating student. In addition, the student must be seated in the front passenger seat, dressed in their cap and gown.

Vehicles with graduates will enter the front hill to the high school where programs will be distributed. Families are encouraged to decorate their vehicles to honor their graduate.

Upon entering the school bus loop, the graduate will exit the vehicle when directed and will proceed to a social distance marker to wait. When it is their turn, the graduate will hand their name card to an attendee and will proceed up the ramp to have their name announced and receive their diploma. The event will also be live streamed.

Loyalsock Township Senior High School- According to Dr. Matt Reitz, Principal of Loyalsock Township High School, Loyalsock will hold a graduation ceremony that is part live and part pre-recorded. “We are using a hybrid of a live and pre-recorded ceremony using the assistance and technology of Rock the House Entertainment out of Cleveland, OH. They specialize in large outdoor and indoor gatherings, including large conferences, outdoor festivals, college and high school graduations.”

Graduation will be held Friday, June 5 at 7:00 p.m. Cars can begin coming into the large parking lot adjacent to the Middle School where they will see an elevated stage as well as a 24 ft. video board.

Each family will receive a ticket for one car to enter and park. Families who are split (separated) will receive two parking pass tickets if they request it. Vehicles must fit into a parking space.

Prior to the ceremony beginning, Rock the House will stream music through an FM radio station into each car, as the entire event will be streamed live on their website, the LTSD website, and a few social media platforms.

Several videos which were created at the high school will also be streamed prior to the ceremony. These will include student life pictures and each senior’s future plans.

Reitz added, “We will be using as much of our traditional ceremony as we can, including live welcomes from our Superintendent and class president, and three student speakers will each speak. We will award diplomas live, calling each student’s name to leave his/her vehicle and come to the front, onto the stage to receive the diploma. Each will then walk back to their vehicle.

We will have a professional photographer present who will be taking many pictures of each graduate, as we know parents will have a difficult time getting up close to get a good picture of their son/daughter. The photographer is providing his services free of charge and providing downloads of the event and for each student free of charge.
Each student will also receive a complimentary USB drive of the entire event.
At the conclusion, each family will depart the parking lot and celebrate as they do off school grounds.”

St. John Neumann Regional Academy – Having a small graduating class sometimes does have its advantages, as St. John Neumann was able to hold a somewhat normal graduation ceremony for its 13 graduates. Graduation took place on May 28th at 7 p.m. at St. Boniface Church and was also live-streamed on Facebook. The graduating class was able to follow guidelines which stipulated no groups over 25 should gather.

Central Mountain high School – Unlike many of the schools in the region, Central Mountain made the decision to hold a completely virtual graduation ceremony for its graduates. Graduation will be aired on June 2nd at 7pm. Some of the graduates, such as the valedictorian and salutatorian, will be brought into the school to be recorded prior to the live-stream. The school plans on airing graduation in a slide-show format with portraits of the students in their caps and gowns. Once the live-stream event is complete, it will stay on the internet and can viewed anytime if someone was unable to watch it live. A link will be posted on the school’s website.

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