Malheur County high schools finalize graduation plans

With 24 graduating seniors this year, Four Rivers Community School hopes a traditional graduation ceremony will be possible in late July. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

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School districts in the county are finding creative ways to celebrate this year’s graduates and, in some cases, holding out hope that a traditional ceremony may still be possible. 

Graduation guidelines released last week by the Oregon Department of Education called on schools to focus on social distancing by opting for virtual celebrations or rescheduling ceremonies for a later date when physical distancing measures are relaxed. 

Drive-in ceremonies and events on football fields were other ideas the state offered. For schools that choose to hold events in small groups of no more than 25 people, the guidelines emphasized the need for distancing and face masks. 

At Vale High, the school is gearing up for three graduation ceremonies next week. A parade through town later in the month will cap the ceremonies. 

Vale seniors may pick up caps, gowns and tassels at the high school on Monday, May 11 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. 

Seniors received emails asking them to reserve a 15-minute time slot on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of next week to walk across the stage. The school will record each ceremony and upload a full video on its Facebook and YouTube pages on May 24.

Students may invite up to 20 friends or family members to witness them receiving their diploma. All attendees are required to wear face coverings and won’t be allowed inside the building without one.

“I know this school closure has kept you from all those fun senior activities, but we did not want this milestone to pass without a proper celebration,” Principal Mary Jo Sharp wrote in a letter to families.

A parade through Vale is slated for the school’s original graduation date – Sunday, May 24. 

Starting at 3 p.m., graduates will drive down “A” Street, across the bridge to Washington Street and back to the high school. 

“We know this timeline is intense, but we wanted to give you one normal element in this difficult time and felt it was important to honor each of you on the original graduation date,” Sharp wrote to her students. 

Ontario High School graduates will receive their diplomas in a drive-thru procession set for May 27 at 6 p.m. in front of the school. The school surveyed seniors, asking them for preferences and ideas. Students voted against delaying graduation to a later date. 

The ceremony will be livestreamed and a video of the event will be available post-graduation.

Students and families are limited to one vehicle for the procession. In order to adhere to safety guidelines, no other vehicles or pedestrians will be allowed near the event.

With “Pomp and Circumstance” playing, students will be allowed to exit the car one at a time with one other family member to receive their diploma and take a picture. 

A screen in the background will make the live ceremony viewable to everyone in the processions. 

A reunion party for the class of 2020 is tentatively scheduled for December.  

At Four Rivers Community School, 2020 is a special year. The school introduced high school grades in 2016-2017 school year. This year’s graduating class is the first cohort to graduate at the Ontario charter school. The school has 24 graduates this year. 

Students voted to schedule a traditional ceremony on July 25. Principal Raeshelle Meyer said the plan is to have the celebration at Four Rivers Cultural Center.

“If we are not able to have it as seniors want, then we will move forward with a social distance virtual graduation as other schools are having,” Meyer wrote in an email.

In Nyssa, seniors and their families will go to the Parma Motor-Vu Drive-In Theatre on May 20 at 10:00 p.m. to watch a video highlighting this year’s graduating class. 

“Although highly unlikely, if social distancing allows, we will still have a traditional graduation ceremony in June,” Principal Brett Jackman wrote in an email. 

Have a news tip? Reporter Yadira Lopez: [email protected] or 541-473-3377


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