MINSTER – The Minster school district has created a two-part May 24 graduation event that aims to balance the need to recognize graduating senior accomplishments while at the same time abiding by health restrictions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Junior/Senior High School Principal Austin Kaylor said the event includes both an online presentation of the graduation ceremony at 1 p.m. and parade at 3:30 p.m. He said it was made possible because of cooperation between all members of the community, starting with the students and parents.
“Nobody wanted a virtual graduation ceremony, but once the parents of the seniors realized that a physical graduation in the football field could not happen, they became great role models for their kids, helping us develop what we are doing that day,” Kaylor said.
The Sunday event will start at 1 p.m. with graduating seniors watching from home a pre-recorded online video of the students walking across the stage to receive their diplomas while their names and accomplishments are listed.
The added touch of having a parent hand the diploma to the senior also reduced the chance of COVID-19 transmission. Kaylor said. A link to the video will be sent to seniors, school staff and school board members.
The video was recorded between May 13-16. Each senior and adult family members came at assigned times to meet social distancing recommendations.
Kaylor said creation of the video would not have been possible without the work of Emily Hider, the school’s technology teacher and year book adviser. She has worked for weeks to put together the raw footage, he said.
Then, in preparation for a 3:30 p.m. parade, seniors and their families are asked to come to the high school parking lot between 3:15 and 3:25 p.m. to get in line. While waiting in the cars, they will be handed their diplomas and a copy of the graduation ceremony on a thumb drive.
While the students are encouraged to wear their caps and gowns, they are asked not to leave their cars while waiting for the parade to begin.
The parade will end at the intersection of Main and Seventh streets, not the school, to prevent people congregating in large groups.
The parade route has been posted to the school’s various social media pages.
Kaylor said he admired the level of cooperation the school has received from the whole community.
He said everyone was eager to cooperate with planning the event because they all knew the seniors had lost so much, from sports to prom as well as the last two months of the school year as COVID-19 closed schools and shut down events.
The principal said the district appreciated the patience and cooperation of Police Chief Dave Friend, Village Administrator Don Harrod, Fire Chief Rich Prenger and the Auglaize County Board of Health for their time and support in making the parade possible with a just a little over a week’s notice.
The police chief said there are at least 70 vehicles participating, with a parent or designated adult driving individual seniors during the parade so the students can focus on the event.
Friend also said while they want everyone to come out to see the parade, people are asked to observe social distancing and not to group together.
He also said rules of the road will be observed with no stopping along the route. Also, while most intersections will be closed by village personnel, rules of right-of-way still apply.
Kaylor said the idea of the video and the senior parade was a compilation of ideas from many members of the community.
“Many school districts have done a similar events we could draw ideas from, and many members of the community also offered ideas to honor the seniors,” he said.
A tentative event has been set up for July 25 to allow the seniors to get together one more time, Kaylor said. But, he said, the school administration knew that before the seniors moved on to the next stage of their lives, the school district needed to provide them a graduation event that allowed for a sense of closure in difficult times.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.