Class of 2020: Schools announce graduation plans to Tigers and Vikings

The Ontario High School graduating class of 2019 is pictured during its commencement on May 29, 2019. The Tigers’ graduation ceremony will be different in 2020 in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

MALHEUR COUNTY — As has always been the plan, May 24 and May 27 will respectively see the Vale and Ontario high schools’ graduating Class of 2020 getting its final sendoff. But, due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s commencement will be unlike any others in the history of those schools: Vale graduates will get their diplomas in individual ceremonies throughout a 3-day time span next week with a final celebration in the form of a parade planned for the originally set graduation date. In Ontario, that originally set date will bring a driving procession of students filtering into the school’s main parking lot in the evening.

Last week, the State of Oregon released guidance for schools on how to tackle the topic of graduation. According to the release from Taryn Smith, Ontario School District Public Relations and Communications Coordinator, Ontario School District, the state’s guidelines boiled down to three options:

• Hold the event at a later date (the seniors were surveyed and said this was not a good idea).

• Very small schools can hold their event at a football field or other large open area where social distancing guidelines can be met.

• Drive-through processions, which is what they decided on.

Both schools announced their plans to students on Monday.

Ontario plans ‘diploma driving procession’

Students in Ontario High School’s Class of 2020 will go through a “diploma driving procession” that will start at 6 p.m. May 27 at the school’s main parking lot. The event ensures social distancing guidelines, which have been in place since March, will be met.

The plan was put together by school leadership and, during the April meeting of the Ontario School District Board of Directors, Superintendent Nicole Albisu said the school’s Associated Student Body leadership was also heavily involved with the decision making. According to a release sent out by Smith, graduates are allowed to come to the graduation ceremony in one car. Graduates will leave their car to receive their diploma and stand for pictures with school administrators (one other member of the car is allowed to exit the vehicle to take pictures of the student).

There will also be an LED screen erected to project live video of the ceremony and outdoors speakers will be on hand to play “Pomp and Circumstance” for the graduates and names will be called to signal the graduates. A video and/or slideshow of the event will be made available at a later date and the ceremony will be live-streamed so family and friends can watch at home (Due to limited space in the Ontario High School parking lot, family members and friends are not allowed to come in a separate car).

Vale grads get individual ceremonies and a parade

Vale’s plans have afforded a small gathering for graduates, who will get 15-minute individualized ceremonies.

Vale High School will have its cap and gown pick up on Monday from 1 to 3 p.m., during which time staff members will also be on hand to celebrate with the students.

Before then, students have to sign-up for a recording appointment between Tuesday and Thursday in which they will receive their diploma at the school. The diploma ceremony will be for the student and up to 20 others (family and friends) to witness the student receive their diploma. Those who attend will be required to wear face coverings while in the building, and those without coverings will not be allowed in.

The diploma ceremonies will be filmed and the recording will be made available the morning of May 24. On that day, all school graduates will be allowed to go to the high school to participate in a parade, in which community members are urged to show their support while ensuring safe social distancing measures are met. The parade will begin at 3 p.m. and lead the graduates down A Street, across the bridge to Washington Street and back to the school.

Nyssa High School held the first part of its graduation plan last week, with students coming to the school to walk the aisle one by one and pick up their diploma. The event was filmed and will be shown as a movie at Parma Motor-Vu Drive-Thru at a later date.

Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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