The COVID-19 pandemic might have kept area students out of school for a time, but it hasn’t stopped high schoolers from graduating and leaving for good.
Social distancing and other health protocols abound; high schools across the country have been faced with the dilemma now posed by the impossibility of traditional ceremonies. Still, area schools have persisted and gotten creative with planning the 2020 and 2021 graduations alike.
“Last year we were in a mode of understanding that we couldn’t be together,” said Dr. Ellen Reilly, Principal of McLean High School, “it was really [about] how we honor the kids and their families”.
McLean’s 2020 graduation was a different one for sure. Spanning over 4 consecutive 10-hour days for the school’s staff, pre-divided groups of students and their families who wanted to participate formed a procession of vehicles carrying graduates-to-be in the school’s parking lot.
As “Pomp and Circumstance” played in the open air, students rolled up to a makeshift stage, had their names called, and were honored at a distance one by one.
“We found it was really important for them to have it – I really enjoyed it, actually!” said Dr. Reilly, “and I think the parents enjoyed it, you know, they got to see their kid up on the stage.”
Behind the scenes, though, unique events like this one require extensive planning and preparation.
“We have had to move to doing a lot of things virtually or moving them outdoors,” said Jeff Litz, principal of Marshall High School, “For example, normally we would have an end of year awards ceremony in our main gym and broadcast it to the entire school. This year we are moving to our stadium and abiding by social distancing guidelines.”
Understandably, the unprecedented circumstances of the time we’re living in have made these planning processes extremely difficult.
“It’s just that frustration,” said Dr. Reilly, “I want to get information out to the families, and my goal is to do it this week. And now, I just left a meeting and I got new information. So, it’s just been frustrating and we just want a great day for our seniors and their families, that’s all we’re trying to do”.
Despite the great response Dr. Reilly said last year’s graduation received from parents, her and her staff wanted to get a bit closer to their customary ceremony at Constitution Hall: This year McLean’s graduates will be honored at Jiffy Lube Live.
The continuous efforts of school staffs have not gone unnoticed, according to Principal Jeff Litz:
“I feel that students and parents recognize the challenges we have faced over the past year and a half and are appreciative of the effort we have put forth to find ways to celebrate and recognize them as often as possible”
“It’s been a long year,” said Dr. Reilly, “and to look back where we were a year ago and where we are now, you know, sometimes it gets emotional for me because I know how much it means to these kids and their families.
“I think that the class of 2021 sometimes feels like they’re forgotten about,” Dr. Reilly continued, “and they’re not”.