High schools update graduation plans

As graduation ceremonies begin to unfold across the state in a variety of formats, new guidance from the Delaware Department of Education has led to updated plans for some districts.

Milford Senior High School was approved this week to hold an outdoor graduation ceremony, following its announcement of plans for smaller ceremonies to partner with a production studio. The high school will also offer individual ceremonies.

The main event will be held Thursday, June 18 at 7 p.m.

The event, slated for Briggs Stadium, will be livestreamed so that those who are not the two permitted guests can view the ceremony.

There will be staggered reporting times for graduates and guests from 6:15 to 6:50 p.m., and face coverings are required for entrance, according to a news release.

Graduates will be permitted to remove masks to walk across the field to receive their diploma as well as during student remarks and performances.

To make sure social distancing occurs, the ceremony will use the length of the football field, versus the home bleachers like past ceremonies. Sanitizing stations will be available throughout the stadium and the district will use digital programs.

Alternatively, graduates can make an appointment time with the high school to report to Briggs Stadium for an individual event during the following evening to have their name announced, walk across the field to receive their diploma, have their picture taken by a photographer and be celebrated by their guests and administrators, according to a news release.

Under this option,more than two guests will be permitted.

Laurel also outdoors

Laurel School District cut the filming portion of its graduation ceremony and committed to an outdoor graduation, Superintendent Shawn Larrimore said in a release to parents.

In a public post at the end of May, he wrote that the district was in contact with DOE and the Division of Public Health to receive approval to exceed the 250-person limit for an outdoor ceremony. Approval was granted this week.

“And we would definitely need one, because at 250 people, even if all of the 130 graduates only brought one guest, that would be 260 people, which would already exceed the 250-person guideline,” he wrote.

Laurel’s graduation is scheduled for Wednesday, June 17, with a rain date scheduled for the following day.

The work for the graduation under the new guidelines began at the end of last month as custodial staff measured out the bleachers at Laurel Stadium in six-foot increments, Dr. Larrimore said.

Seniors will be seated on the football field, six feet apart, he added. Additional guests — beyond the approved number able to watch from the stadium — will be able to view the ceremony via jumbotrons in the parking lot seated in their vehicles.

Indian River amends plans

Indian River School District likewise amended its plans for graduation.

“Yesterday afternoon we held a Zoom meeting with our high school principals and we have decided to change the graduation format that we previously had approved by our Board,” Superintendent Mark Steele wrote in a message to the school community May 28. “Even though we are planning an outside event, we will not be allowed to accommodate the capacities as in past years. Given the new guidelines, we may have to hold multiple graduations at each school.”

The letter came just about a week after the Indian River School Board unanimously approved staging combined virtual and drive-thru/walkthrough ceremonies.

Before the ceremonies can take place — currently scheduled for mid-June for the district’s three high schools — work remains to be done; the district must calculate how many people can be seated in the stadium with the mandatory social distancing requirements.

“Once we calculate the stadium seating with the social distancing requirements we will be able to inform you of the number of guests allowed to attend,” Mr. Steele said. “Our plan will need to be approved by DOE before we can proceed with the outside graduation event.”

Virtual and traditional

Beginning last week, the district’s high schools sent out survey links or automated calls to determine what the community preferred for the number of guests versus number of ceremonies.

Sussex Tech announced it will hold four separate graduation ceremonies on June 11 and 12, with students split into smaller groups, as to not exceed the 250-person limit, according to a news release.

The school board had last voted to unanimously delay graduation until the district received information on when restrictions can be lifted.

Meanwhile, Polytech High School is working with DOE to revise the school’s current graduation plan, with additional guidance slated for this week, a spokesman said.

The district had announced plans for drive-up ceremonies for late June, scheduled by career area, during its May board meeting.

Other school districts have determined their graduations will remain as scheduled. Appoquinimink had selected July 14 and 15 as potential dates for traditional ceremonies, with formal decisions to be made in June. Caesar Rodney High School already had its eyes on a traditional ceremony, and moved its date to July 25. Smyrna High School likewise scheduled its date for July 25, with the hope of offering a traditional ceremony.

Lake Forest, which had its students walk the stage at appointed times in a socially distant manner, will continue with its virtual ceremony, slated for June 9.

Dover High School’s combination of virtual and in-person components were still a go this week. The school’s virtual ceremony premiered June 3, and students received their diplomas at the Dover International Speedway June 4, after completing a victory lap.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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