WILLIAMSPORT, Ohio (WCMH) — It’s a new reality for high school seniors this year — no prom and no idea where or when graduation will take place.
“It’s definitely not the graduation we had pictured,” said Westfall High School Principal Billy Dennis.
Westfall graduations would usually have full bleachers at the football stadium filled with family members cheering on their graduates. But that won’t happen this year because of the coronavirus.
One of the only sights left at the virtually empty school are the faces of the 106 graduates of the 2020 class who have already missed out on so much because of COVID-19.
But Westfall has found a way to allow students and their families to share graduation at the school.
“We felt like we need to honor our graduates the best way we can,” said Dennis.
That’s why Dennis and the school created a scheduled, in-person ceremony for families only, which will start in the school’s parking lot.
“What we’re going to do is have our students arrive here at the high school, park in our main parking lot, and one family at a time, at a given time slot, is going to come through the side door of the auditorium,” said Dennis.
The auditorium will be empty because the district is not allowing more than 10 people inside at one time during the ceremonies.
“The graduate will walk on to the stage, pomp and circumstance will play as their name is read,” said Dennis. “They will walk across the stage and meet me at center stage. A slide of that student and all of their accomplishments will play, and I will give them their diploma.”
A ceremony which usually takes an hour will now be scheduled throughout three days because the school wants to make sure every family’s moment is special.
“This was a big deal for us,” said Dennis. “We knew our families really wanted something in person, something personal.”
Dennis knew they had to follow COVID-19 guidelines, and he added the Ohio Department of Health signed off on the graduation idea.
“We will have sanitizing stations when they come into the auditorium and when they leave,” he said.
There’s one more treat for everyone involved.
“What we wanted to do was to produce something on video, something that we could give them as a keepsake.”
The school hired a production crew to film each ceremony. They will put together a final tape and give it to the families and other students at the school so they can watch the entire class of 2020 walk across the stage.