Many parents and students have voiced concerns about celebrations for high school seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools across the state are each taking a unique approach to celebrate their graduates.
Some high schools are planning somewhat traditional graduation ceremonies, just later this summer, while others are hosting virtual ones.
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation is taking a sort of hybrid approach: they've planned a "memorable experience" route for seniors to drive up to, with several stops to take photos and celebrate their success – in addition to the virtual commencement ceremonies planned.
The route includes a stage to walk across, and a take-home souvenir based on the long-standing tradition of seniors ringing a bell upon completion of their final school project at one of the high schools.
Superintendent Jim Roberts says it's taken much more time to plan and staff than other graduations, but feedback from families has been positive.
"It feels more student-centered in this approach than it has in the past," he says.
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Other schools are hosting similar drive-thru events, or adding something extra to their virtual ceremonies.
Kokomo High School Principal Angela Blessing describes her school's commencement as a virtual celebration with a twist. The school plans to videotape students walking across the stage and receiving their diploma ahead of time individually – then the school will edit those together into a video played during the virtual ceremony.
Blessing says the school organized the event with the help of student body officers, using an idea they saw from a school in another state.
"It's not what anybody would want to do, but it's the best possible outcome the student officers felt would give everyone the chance to walk across the stage," she says.
In Vigo County, high schools will host an in-person ceremony with social distance rules in place sometime in July. The school corporation has also rented billboards to celebrate students from each of the corporation's high schools, and has plans for individual diploma pick ups in June.
Roberts and Blessing both say some of the changes they've made at their schools this year could last.
Roberts says it's likely the district could keep offering the take-home souvenirs for seniors in future years, and Blessing says videotaping graduation can offer more families more access to watching those in the future.