The number of students in the Rutherford B. Hayes High School Class of 2020 set a record, according to Principal Ric Stranges, who reported that a total of 463 students graduated from Hayes this year, an increase of 74 students compared to the 2019 class, which featured 389 graduates.
Stranges attributed the increase to the changes in requirements put in place earlier this year as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We haven’t received the graduation rate from the state of Ohio as of yet, however, I know it will be one of the highest ever here at Hayes,” Stranges said. “We were given the time to contact former students who may not have received their diplomas in the past due to a number of state mandates and many of them were able to complete classes online and walk with the class of 2020.”
The state of Ohio altered its graduation requirements in April, stating that any student who had completed the curriculum could graduate, and it waived various requirements, including “test scores, capstone project, work or community service experience, industry-recognized credential, 11th and 12th grade GPA.”
Stranges said school staff reached out to students who were unable to graduate in the past five years and helped them finish.
“Our W.I.L.L. (Willis Innovative Learning Lab) program was amazing as they increased our numbers significantly,” he said. “The state of Ohio removed some barriers due to COVID-19, which allowed some of our students from the past to graduate with credits only and not having to pass the OGT (Ohio Graduation Test).”
Stranges said there were 10 students from the class of 2019, one from 2018, five from 2017, one from 2016, and one from 2015 who were able to graduate this year.
As for the class of 2020’s big day, which took place back on May 23, Stranges said he hopes students and families enjoyed the district’s drive-thru graduation ceremony.
“As I reflect, I feel the celebration for the resilient class of 2020 was truly a joyous occasion,” he said. “Watching the families coming through with such pride, the cars decorated with orange and black, and our proud staff socially distanced around the parking lot was a sight I will never forget. I truly hope the graduates, our families, our staff, and our community will hold this special memory forever as well.”
Stranges added he was happy to see other district high schools adopt the drive-thru model after Hayes announced its plans to give students something as close as possible to a traditional commencement ceremony.
“I was pleased that other districts took our lead and found it just as important as we did to include families in the graduation ceremony,” Stranges said. “It was the first time that parents, siblings, and even grandparents were a part of the celebration. We worked with our local health department, city officials, and our district leadership to ensure the health and safety guidelines were being met. This was our first priority. To have families share the joy of the occasion was ‘icing on the cake’ for the incredible class of 2020.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.