After having their senior year in high school curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic, some Grand County High School students went to work with staff to design a graduation ceremony that would be memorable, safe and meaningful for all.
As schools went online and physical distancing recommendations were issued over the past few months, students and staff held out hope that perhaps restrictions would be lifted before graduation day. But after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced that the state’s school buildings would remain closed through the end of the school year, it became clear that the chance of having a traditional graduation ceremony was slim.
Newly appointed Grand County School Superintendent Taryn Kay reported that staff turned to students to help plan what to do.
“While the overwhelming consensus was that everyone wished we could postpone graduation to a time in the future where groups would be allowed and have a traditional graduation ceremony, when we looked at that critically it just didn’t seem realistic,” said Kay. A typical graduation is attended by over 600 people, she noted, a number far beyond even relaxed guidelines from the state.
Seniors who were surveyed were very clear about two things, Kay reported: the importance of throwing their caps in the air and the tradition of standing in the “G” during graduation. With that in mind, a group of five seniors joined staff to form a committee to help plan alternate graduation ceremonies.
“The seniors were really thoughtful and really came up with the plan as it was released,” said Kay.
On May 28, seniors and their families will gather at Swanny Park for a parade, led by fire and police vehicles with lights and sirens. “Community members are welcomed to stand along the roadway and cheer them on similar to a traditional homecoming parade,” said current Superintendent Stephen Hren in a plan released to the public. The parade will conclude on school grounds, where each student will receive their diploma and stand in the “G” individually. The line of cars will circle the U-shaped drive by the school, where seniors will exit and throw their caps in the air to celebrate at the end of the ceremony.
School officials report that the diploma ceremony will be televised live by Emery Telcom and KCYN. An edited video of the ceremony, including speeches by the student body president, class valedictorian and class salutatorian, will be available to students.
Graduation caps and gowns should be picked up along with yearbooks at the school on Tuesday, May 26. Students should check with the school district about what time they are scheduled to clean out their lockers, pay fees, and retrieve any personal belongings.
“There is a lot of sadness that it's not a typical situation,” said Kay, but noted that there was a positive way to view the situation as well.
“This is the only time this may ever happen,” she said. “If you're graduating this year, you are unique. You are being honored in so many ways that no other class has ever been and we hope no class in the future will be either.”