Polytech, Dover outline commencement plans

Hybrid graduation ceremonies, with extra memories to make, are becoming the new tradition for the class of 2020.

As graduation season creeps closer, districts are continuing to roll out amended plans for the traditional celebrations.

Polytech High School

Joining the ranks of districts and charters announcing plans for their senior class is Polytech High School, which discussed its graduation ceremony at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The distinct will hold both a virtual ceremony and several small group graduation events.

“We recognize it’s not what our students and families had hoped for, we know that they are looking to have a whole-group celebration at some point in time, however we need to ensure that our students graduate on time because many of them need their diploma conferred before they can start work, enter the military or pursue higher education,” Superintendent Amelia Hodges said at the meeting.

She added that the district would also plan for a full class of 2020 celebration — in addition to the ceremonies occurring in June — and will solicit feedback for that event as well.

The small group and virtual ceremonies were crafted with parent and student survey responses in mind, she said.

The first of the small-group drive-up ceremonies will be held June 13, for students enlisting in the military. The following graduation dates will be June 18, 19 and 20, scheduled by career area.

Like other small graduation ceremonies announced — Milford and Lake Forest school districts are among some that rolled out a similar plan — each graduate will have one vehicle, with up to four family members who live in the same household able to attend.

“We’re developing guidance and a process to accommodate students who have parents who do not reside in the same household,” Dr. Hodges said.

Only one soon-to-be-graduate will be out of the vehicle at a time, and no more than two family members will be able to take photos, she said.

“They must get back in their vehicle and have that vehicle secured before the next student may have their own individual graduation across the stage so we will not be violating any of the gathering requirements put forth by the governor,” she said.

The ceremonies will also have a limited number of staff in attendance.

“Polytech administrators, teachers and other staff members will be assigned graduation support duties in groups of 10 or less throughout the three days of ceremonies for our students,” she said.

On June 26, the school will air its virtual graduation at 7 p.m. The video will highlight all the seniors and include speeches from the class of 2020’s valedictorian and salutatorian.

Dover High School

Meanwhile, in other districts, creative solutions to address graduation keep coming. At Dover High School, seniors will “ride out in style,” noted Principal Courtney Voshell.

Earlier this month, the district announced its plans to go with a virtual-based graduation, set for June 3, though it incorporated in-person touches leading up to the ceremony — including a drive-thru parade to pick up caps and gowns and a place to leave a lock on the high school’s fence.

The district announced today that the students will receive their diploma when they cross the finish line — of Dover International Speedway.

“I think people were feeling a little mixed emotions about the virtual ceremony and I tried to say, ‘You know, guys, we’re really trying to do something special for diploma day,’ but they were just really having a hard time getting past the graduation day,” she said. “So I think today kind of helps to put a bow on the whole timeline of events.”

On June 4, beginning at 4 p.m., the students will be able to drive a victory lap around the racetrack, and receive their diplomas in Victory Lane after they cross the finish line. In the event of rain, the event will take place the following evening.

There will be one car per graduate, and immediate family is allowed to travel with the graduate. For those who wouldn’t be able to ride along, the school will be livestreaming the event.

“So the family that’s not able to be at the event will be able to watch it and hear the graduate’s name called as they come in to receive their diploma,” she said.

A photographer will be there to capture when the school board hands the student their diploma — like how they’d receive it if they were walking across a stage, just, this time, out of a car window.

Dr. Voshell noted that as students go along on their high school journey, they see milestones the older cohorts reach and have an eye on doing the same — plus, they’ve worked hard.

“It’s important to commemorate that four year experience, because it’s not about the coronavirus, that’s what we don’t want to really commemorate,” she continued. “We want to commemorate their hard work and so just working around some of the restrictions that are still in place, obviously for safety purposes, we just tried to adapt and make sure that they felt really special.”

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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