Hayes High School Principal Ric Stranges announced Thursday the 2020 commencement ceremony will take place as originally scheduled on May 23, but this year, students will receive their diplomas via a drive-thru ceremony.
Stranges shared a video with students and families in which he discussed the new plan for graduation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the district established a backup graduation date of July 24, just in case it had to postpone the May 23 ceremony.
“As new information comes in every day, it’s looking more and more like graduation in July will not happen,” Stranges said, adding it’s unlikely that policies will be changed with regard to mass gatherings by July.
“I do not want to keep pushing your day back any longer … We are planning the most exciting and innovating graduating exercise ever,” he told students.
Stranges announced the new plan is to have students gather in vehicles at the Delaware County Fairgrounds with their families before heading off in their vehicles to the senior parking lot where they will be handed their diplomas and have a photo taken. Stranges said students can then travel to the front of the school and have another photo taken.
He said the whole procession and speeches will be filmed and compiled for students.
“We do this together, like the class of 2020 deserves,” Stranges said. “We want to make it special and memorable … We want to honor you and make May 23 wonderful for each and every one of you.”
Stranges said Friday he spoke with local health officials and the City of Delaware Fire and Police departments to plan the event, and to make sure it’s done as safely as possible.
“Let’s give them something that honors them that they’ll remember,” Stranges said. “(The proposed ceremony) is within the guidelines and orders from health officials … Our first priority is to keep it safe.”
Stranges added he felt it was important to include families in the ceremony and felt that doing a virtual ceremony doesn’t have that element.
“Doing it virtually, there’s no family involvement,” he said. “One thing I’ve learned being in Delaware is that it’s a community, and graduation has always been a family affair.”
Stranges praised the seniors for their optimism and attitude since Hayes closed last month.
“The class of 2020 has been the most patient, positive, strong group in recent memory for me,” he said. “They have just been so good about being patient and trusting us in this process. That gives me the impetuous to do the very best we can for them.
“It also provides closure, and I think we need that,” Strange added. “With COVID, we just don’t know when the end is. Seniors are trying to move on to the next phase of their life. We want to provide them with some hope.”
Stranges said he and Hayes staff have other ideas to make graduation week special for seniors, and he is looking forward to seeing all of them at the ceremony.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.