Schools across the country are figuring out how to recognize graduating seniors who are missing out on the usual pomp and circumstance of their final year of high school. Mason High School in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio's largest high school, says it will try to honor every student.
The district says it's submitted a plan to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for an in-person ceremony to be held in an outdoor stadium that would be divided into four shifts by last name. However, the district says based on guidance from the state, it's unlikely this will be approved.
Instead, MHS is laying out an alternate recognition plan for its 887 members of the class of 2020.
Staff and teachers will spend two days, May 19 and 20, handing out caps, gowns, cords, awards and recognition items to students or family members during a drive-through pick-up line. Students will be divided into certain time windows based on last name. Items will be placed in vehicle trunks and the district says students won't be allowed out of their cars.
On May 22, the district intends to launch "Operation Diploma Delivery." Everyone from teachers, staff, administrators, board of education members, and even school bus drivers will personally deliver diplomas to each student's home.
"Seniors will have the opportunity to wear their caps, gowns and cords while they receive their diplomas, and have a photographer capture this #MasonMoment in front of a specially decorated Class of 2020 Comet Connector Bus," Principal Bobby Dodd writes in a letter to the district.
The district says staff will wear masks and gloves and expect the deliveries will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. People who wish to participate can sign up online and times will be assigned. "We will publish when the Class of 2020 Comet Connector Buses are coming to neighborhoods, so that members of the community can also cheer for our grads."
Two days later on May 24, the district intends to produce a virtual graduation and "parade of graduates." The ceremony will include speeches, music and a turning of the tassels moment in a combination of recorded and live segments. Footage from the diploma deliveries will be included. It will be televised on local cable TV and archived online, the district says.
Afterward, a parade is planned wherein students and families can decorate their vehicles and follow a "decentralized path throughout the Mason community" and be recognized by family and friends. The district says there won't be a central starting area in order to discourage any large gatherings.
"Our hope is that in this season we can still create incredible moments for (the students) that they will look back 20, 30 years from now and remember what this time was - what they gave up but also what they gained," says Tracey Carson, public information officer.
Carson says initial response to the plan has been positive.
Those who are unable or don't wish to participate can pick-up diplomas on May 23.
Finally, though not ideal, the district says it's committed to hosting an in-person ceremony in May 2021. "While this isn't ideal, it does provide the opportunity for members of the class of 2020 to participate in a traditional Mason High School graduation ceremony," Dodd writes.