The Class of 2020 sees changes to its graduation plans, including drive-through ceremonies
AZTEC — The Class of 2020 will experience a different type of graduation celebration than its predecessors as the various school districts work to keep students, faculty and the community safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many of the schools are having drive-through and virtual ceremonies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Here's a look at how the school districts in San Juan County are honoring graduates this year.
Farmington Municipal School District announced that it will have virtual graduation ceremonies in an effort to comply with stay-at-home orders and other public health orders.
The first of the virtual graduations was San Juan College High School, which honored its graduates on May 16.
The remaining virtual graduation schedule is:
- Piedra Vista High School: 7:30 p.m. May 19
- Rocinante High School: 6 p.m. May 20
- Farmington High School: 7 p.m. May 21
Links to the virtual graduation ceremonies will be added to the school district website, district.fms.k12.nm.us. These virtual ceremonies involve pre-recorded video.
In addition to the virtual ceremonies, the schools will also have drive-through graduation celebrations that will allow seniors to pick up their diplomas.
Rocinante High School will have a drive-through graduation ceremony from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. May 20 prior to the virtual graduation that evening. Students will arrive at set times based on alphabetical order.
Information regarding the Farmington and Piedra Vista high school drive-through ceremonies was not available by deadline May 18, however it will be posted to the school district website, district.fms.k12.nm.us.
“We can’t have a parade and our community really doesn’t want a virtual graduation,” Bloomfield school district superintendent Kim Mizell said when reached by phone.
She said the district wants to have a traditional graduation and has several plans in place that would allow such a graduation if the governor allows San Juan County to reopen further.
For example, she said the schools may be able to do a traditional graduation with social distancing measures in place and by limiting the number of guests per student to two. That would depend on if the state allows San Juan County to move into what it has deemed “Phase One” of the reopening process. On May 16, the county entered the preparation phase, which most of the state entered two weeks earlier.
Aztec High School, where the school board had approved a drive-through graduation celebration, initially had to change its plans. Then, at about 11:45 p.m. on May 15, Superintendent Kirk Carpenter posted an update on Facebook informing the community that the drive-through ceremony would be allowed. During the drive-through ceremony, students will receive diploma covers. He said the school district received notice from the state public education department that it could go ahead with the May 22 ceremony.
The drive-through celebration is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 22, which is the day Aztec High School would have celebrated commencement if the pandemic had not occurred.
This will be different than a commencement because not all of the students have been able to finish their graduation requirements due to the virus.
Meanwhile, banners are hung in Riverside Park showing pictures of each senior. In the evening, parents and seniors can be seen walking through the park and pausing to take a picture of the banners.
The district is planning a ceremony for Vista Nueva High School for June 20. How the ceremony takes place will likely be determined by state guidelines at that time.
Recorded graduation messages will be played from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, on 107.9 FM Pirate Radio.
During a board meeting on May 14, CCSD board members expressed concerns about online virtual ceremonies and the lack of internet access. They favored a radio broadcast ceremony. The board discussion can be viewed on Facebook.
A survey of seniors found they wanted the diplomas during their scheduled graduation dates.
Board Member Sheldon Pickering emphasized the importance of the high school graduation to many of the students and supported the idea of having a traditional graduation ceremony once the region is able to reopen further.
The CCSD board of education will meet again on May 19. The agenda includes a presentation and possible action regarding drive through graduation ceremonies.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the CCSD graduation schedule was:
- Career Prep High School: 7 p.m. May 20
- Kirtland Central High School: 7 p.m. May 21
- Newcomb High School: 7 p.m. May 22
- Shiprock High School: 10 a.m. May 23
More information about the graduation plans will be available following the board meeting, which will be streamed on Facebook.
Navajo Prep faces unique challenges as its students come from all over the Navajo Nation as well as Dulce, Phoenix and Albuquerque.
Darah Tabrum, the director of student and community engagement, said the school is still confirming some of the graduation details.
"We have held several class meetings with our seniors from the Class of 2020 and are working to include them in the planning process," Tabrum said in an email to The Daily Times. "Our seniors are managing a lot — their concern for the health of their families and communities, the stress of finishing up the semester, and the uncertainty of transitioning from high school to college. It is a lot for any young person to handle! We are so proud of our students and want to celebrate our students and their accomplishments with our Eagle community students through a ceremony that is both safe and special."
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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