Seniors at Hayes High School have several events to look forward to before the end of their time at Delaware City Schools, including graduating in the stadium, according to Principal Richard Stranges.
Stranges said earlier this year he put together a committee of staff, parents, and students with the goal of planning several events seniors could safely participate in. Stranges said he felt it was important “not only to create a sense of normalcy but to create memories.”
He added the school has been honoring the class of 2021 on the 21st day of every month, and on April 21, staff and teachers will go plant yard signs at seniors’ homes. It will be the final 21st day recognition before graduation on May 22, which Stranges said will take place in a traditional format this year.
“We are going to hold graduation out in the stadium as normal as we can,” he said. “We submitted plans to the Delaware Public Health District and will follow all of those guidelines, obviously.”
“I went out yesterday and measured that we can adequately space our seniors on the field,” Stranges said. “I’m excited about that. People loved the drive-thru thing, which is great, but I think we are all hungry for normalcy, and if we can provide traditional commencement ceremonies for our students and families, that’s what we should do. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Stranges said social distancing will be followed at the event, and tickets will be very limited.
“We will be able to have a graduation that looks very much like it always has,” he said, adding the only major change that might come about is moving the event to the evening of May 23 if it is rained out on the morning of May 22.
Stranges said he will be handing out all the diplomas instead of having a variety of presenters chosen by seniors, but those presenters will be placing personalized notes in the diplomas of students.
The week leading up the graduation will also include a “senior night of excellence” at the stadium where seniors will be recognized and honored for their achievements, he added.
Another important senior event making a return this year will be prom, Stranges said Thursday, which will return in the form of a senior dinner and will take place at Villa Milano, where previous proms have been held.
“(It will be a) senior-only event, but it’s a chance for our seniors, who have not been together for one minute this school year, to come together for a final dinner together and make it a special evening,” Stranges said. “I’m looking forward to that event.”
Stranges said he’s also planning to hold the traditional senior walk, senior breakfast, and is currently working on preparing some kind of senior cookout.
To help seniors deal with the challenging circumstances the current school year provided, the courtyard at Hayes was converted into a senior eating area with 20 new metal tables.
“It was a way to honor our seniors so they have their own space,” Stranges said.
As for how the seniors have adapated to the unique school year, Stranges added he’s proud of how the group committed itself to staying safe in the midst of a pandemic.
“Every single student is wearing a mask. … They are doing everything I asked them to do,” Stranges said. “I haven’t had one issue, not one, with students not complying with safety protocols. I’ve been so appreciative of all our students who have done that. Everybody has been so compliant and gracious. I feel so lucky to be here.”
Stranges added he’s glad he’s been able to plan events for the class of 2021, which will be graduating after “a very difficult year.”
“They’ve been a class that has been so resilient, flexible, understanding and full of grace,” he said. “They rise above and they overcome ,and that makes them special. … Of all my 40 years, the last two have been the most difficult and trying, but in many ways the most rewarding. … It’s been a remarkable couple years on this journey.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.