Sunday, May 17, was supposed to be the graduation ceremony for Olentangy Orange High School’s Class of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic canceled those plans.
However, some seniors and their families will still celebrate this Sunday with a neighborhood parade.
“With our graduating class being so big, we couldn’t do a community parade, because it would be enormous,” said Denise Bell, parent of a Pioneer senior. “Three of our neighborhoods pretty much connect, so we are planning to do a parade that day.”
The neighborhoods are the Grand Oak, Mansard, and Walnut Grove Estates subdivisions, which are about a five-minute drive to Orange High School.
“We’ll start in the Grand Oak neighborhood because we have an elementary school in our neighborhood, and we’ll meet there to line up the cars,” Bell said. “They’ll go through the Grand Oak neighborhood, and we connect directly to Mansard and we’ll swing into there. Then Mansard is directly across the street from Walnut Grove. Then they’ll go down there through that neighborhood, then finish up going out of that neighborhood traveling down Big Walnut a little bit, because we have a graduate who lives in Big Walnut who’s not in a subdivision, but we’re gonna head past their house, too.”
More than 20 graduating seniors will be led along the route by the Genoa Township Fire and Police departments. Everyone will be driving slow, giving the 400 families expected to line the parade route — following social distancing, of course — plenty of time to cheer them on.
In addition, most of the graduating seniors in the Olentangy school district have been “adopted” by the community. They’ve put their class photo and accomplishments on social media, and different families have adopted them, giving them uplifting messages and sending them care packages, Bell said.
Other neighborhoods are doing similar events such as the parade, and even fifth and eighth graders are being celebrated for moving on in their education.
“When school was first moved to online, one of our parents at Orange set up a parent Facebook page for the senior parents,” Bell said. “Parents have been on that board sharing ideas that either they’ve come up with or that they’ve seen shared on social media or in the press of what different high schools are doing.
“It’s been an interesting time to try and make a lot of the things that they’re somehow missing a little bit better,” she continued. “But the idea for the parade was something someone seen done in a more rural district so the whole school could parade. Obviously we can’t do that, so then we talked about it would be nice if neighborhoods broke up and smaller neighborhoods could kind of band together, and bigger neighborhoods do their own.
“We’re just trying to find ways to celebrate the kids and give them a little something to celebrate that day.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.