With public gathering in a month’s time not looking feasible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oregon School District is moving graduation back from June 14 to July 26.
While there’s still hope to hold a modified in-person ceremony – though almost certainly not the traditional sort – school officials are also planning for a potential virtual ceremony.
The decision, the result of discussions between Oregon High School senior class leaders and school administrators, was approved by the school board at its Monday, May 11 meeting.
“It breaks our heart that we’re not able to have a graduation planned and scheduled on our regular day,” said OHS principal Jim Pliner. “We would love to hold onto hope later on in the summer we could have a graduation ceremony or some modified celebration.”
Pliner said once it became apparent that holding a traditional ceremony on June 14 wouldn’t work, he worked with a group of senior class leaders and the school’s administrative team on a plan, getting feedback from students and parents. He said dozens of parents have emailed him supporting pushing the graduation date back.
Around the area, of the 16 schools in the Badger Conference, 10 have postponed high school graduation ceremonies, four are holding virtual ceremonies on the planned date, and two are deciding.
“You can imagine there have been a lot of questions on how we can honor our seniors and wrap up the school year in a way that really celebrates their accomplishments,” he said.
Pushing the date back until late July gives school officials more time to modify plans for an in-person ceremony, or an opportunity to plan the “very best virtual ceremony that we can.”
Pliner said school districts will get more guidance from state health officials in the coming weeks on graduation, which will make things clearer. He said recent feedback discourages in-person gatherings, with possible exceptions of “curbside” celebrations.
Pliner said another scenario is that in a few weeks, if it’s evident state health officials are on the path to approving large gatherings, the district could again postpone the ceremony to give more time for a possible in-person version. Or if the July 26 graduation is virtual, he suggested waiting until December for an in-person celebration for students.
“Our feedback is they want to hold on to hope that we can get together,” Pliner said.
OHS senior and student school board member Cubby Vandermause, one of several student leaders who worked on the plan, said the message they heard from their fellow seniors was the value of being able to gather together in a group, one last time.
“(That) was a priority for us,” he said. “Being together in a physical sense may not be viable, but we think that we hold it in really high regard and we’re hoping to be able to do something in person.”