Virtual Graduation: Pandemic Protocol

By: Brooke Leggat

With the end of our eventful school year approaching, the Bend-laPine school district has opted for a collaboration of both virtual and “drive through” concepts of graduation ceremonies, generating a plethora of mixed feelings from students and parents in its wake. 

The original blueprint for this year’s graduation had been conclusively virtual with strict state guidelines set in to equate social distancing, while still honoring the class of 2020. However, with new COVID-19 statistics being released, the state approved the idea of a drive-through graduation, one that Bend-la Pine school administrators had conversed about prior to the improved protocol. These new guidelines will allow Storm seniors to walk through school one by one with close friends and family, while virtual speeches given by the valedictorian, principal Micheal McDonald, as well as the ASB president will be aired on CO-TV, along with pictures and names of graduates.

Though Bend la-Pine administrators are doing their best to provide the class of 2020 with a fulfilling and honorable ceremony, Storm principle Micheal McDonald remarks that it isn’t possible during this unprecedented time to fill the shoes of graduations past.

“It’s disappointing that we don’t get to do something that is traditional and celebratory”, McDonald said. “But we have to mourn the loss of opportunity right now, and do as much as we can to make it feel special…we’re trying hard to figure out what we can do within the guidelines of the state”.

While Bend la-Pine administrators continuously work to satisfy any resemblance of a normal graduation, they are not alone in their efforts. Some students have taken matters into their own hands, such as Gianna Dispenza, a Storm senior who began a petition against a virtual graduation, of which has well over 1,500 signatures. 

“The petition shows that we stand as a unified front” Dispenza said. “That there is a large community, of not just parents, that want to find a better way to honor seniors than a slideshow”. 

Though Dispenza remarked her graces for administrators’ tireless efforts to fabricate a normal-ish graduation, she has repeatedly banned together with parents and students alike to brainstorm a way to celebrate her grade, while abiding by state protocol.

“I can’t speak for anyone else, but personally I think what is more important to me than walking across a stage is being able to celebrate a milestone with my friends and family”, Dispenza said. “I am working with a group of parents to put together some type of parade, most likely, in your car, which will give students the opportunity for closure and to give thanks to their teachers”.

While efforts such as these work to bring about some form of celebration, senior Braden Sully remarks that graduation this year will not satisfy the needs or wants of his senior class. 

“I don’t think that anything will fulfill the true graduation experience that everyone else had” Sully said. “But the district and schools are doing a great job to do what they can to make graduation as ‘normal’ as possible”.

Students and the Bend-la Pine district can all be applauded for working to create a celebratory and worthy graduation, but this unprecedented time has bestowed us with insurmountable obstacles that will prevent seniors from having any resemblance of a normal graduation.

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