Vermont high schools plan alternative graduation ceremonies

Published: May. 27, 2020 at 6:15 PM EDT
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The coronavirus has postponed or altered the look of many preplanned events. Among those are high school graduations. Our Olivia Lyons takes a look at what schools have planned.

The class of 2020 has been working toward this milestone since kindergarten-- that's about 13 years. This year graduates won't be getting the typical pomp and circumstance. Still, many Vermont schools are making sure it is a day to remember.

"I'm really excited to graduate!" said Maya Sobel, a Rutland High School senior. "It's going to be a fun experience... even though it's online."

Because of the coronavirus, CDC guidelines restrict high schools from hosting typical graduations. Many schools are putting signs up around town honoring their seniors and creating virtual ceremonies.

Sobel filmed her graduation speech for Rutland High School's upcoming virtual ceremony.

"I think it was a cool experience to film," Sobel said. "I had a lot of fun going in with my friends and speaking, but I just wish we could be all together."

For Rutland High School seniors, graduation is going to be virtual. But the school is planning other things like putting a big sign up downtown and tentatively inviting them back for the class of 2021's graduation.

"It's cute! It's nice! When people were going out to take graduation pictures they would honk at you," said Megan O'Connor, a Rutland High School senior.

Windsor's usual graduation draws about 1,000 people. This year each student has five minutes to cross the stage in front of their family and then head to a photo booth.

"I try to remind my students that this is a historical event that they are experiencing and sometimes historical events need different types of celebrations," Windsor School Principal Tiffany Riley said.

Riley says having only 51 graduates allows them to plan an in-person event.

"If we had a class of 200, I'm not sure we could pull it off," she said. "What would typically be an hourlong ceremony is now going to be approximately five hours long. Well worth it. It's well worth the length of time!"

Richford High School's staff measured the elementary school's parking lot. For their graduation, families will park in a U-shape with at least six feet of distance between cars and watch as the 33 graduates get their diploma one at a time.

"We recognize how much the kids have lost during this time and we definitely looked at those limitations and tried to find ways to live within the bounds of it, while also making it as special and as memorable for the kids," said Lynn Cota, the superintendent of the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union.

It's not the graduation seniors envisioned, but schools are doing their best given the guidelines.

"It's disappointing, but when you know all the other kids in the country are in the same boat, it makes it a little easier," O'Connor said.

"I like being able to show, 'Hey I'm graduating!' And I wanted to tell everyone and take pictures with everyone. I think this is a really good way to make up for it," Sobel said.

Many schools are also hosting car parades the day their schools' graduation had been originally scheduled for. And others have activities leading up to the big day. This week, Burlington High School is holding a virtual spirit week.

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