Pause on Tradition – Sevier graduation plans revealed

The halls of Cedar Ridge High School remain empty Tuesday morning as students are instructed via distance learning. District officials announced graduation plans for Sevier County’s four high school’s last week.

One of the most frustrating things about the COVID-19 pandemic is the effect it has had on the rites of passage associated with school, according to Cade Douglas, Sevier School District superintendent. 

 Many of the spring activities have been forever lost due to the social distancing requirements, but schools are hoping to salvage high school graduations, even if they have to be done in a nonconventional way.

“We feel good about where we’re landing,” Douglas said. 

The school district developed three options for graduation for students and faculty to chose from. 

“I had a parent call me today and ask about the possibility of graduation still happening,” Douglas said. However, while Utah has been moved into the orange recovery phase, there are still social distancing requirements that will not allow for full-scale graduations.

“What we’re anticipating is that we’ll be at the orange level from May 1 through May 15, and then move into the yellow between May 16 and 30,” Douglas said. In the yellow phase, groups of up to 50 people would be allowed to gather, which is still far short of what would be needed for a graduation.

For Richfield and North Sevier high schools, the third option — a limited vehicle drive-in — was selected. Richfield’s is slated for Friday, May 22, at 9:30 a.m., while North Sevier’s is slated for Thursday, May 21, at 6 p.m.

South Sevier and Cedar Ridge high schools selected the second option offered by the school district, a drive by graduation. The SSHS graduation is set for Friday, May 22, at 4 p.m., while CRHS is slated for Thursday, May 21, at 10 a.m.

None of the schools selected the first option, which would’ve precluded any type of gathering.

In the option selected by RHS and NSHS, each graduate will be allowed one vehicle in the parking lot.

“Our goal isn’t to make sure everyone can see the stage,” Douglas said. “When it’s their student’s turn, they can go up and watch.”

He said the logistics of the drive-up and drive-through graduations will be difficult to manage as it is. Law enforcement is being drafted to help with the lineup of cars, which in Richfield may also result in 400 West being shut down during graduation.

Another challenge is time.

Graduation ceremonies can drag on for two hours, but Douglas said the goal is to keep them between an hour and 90 minutes. 

“That’s a long time to have to sit in a car,” Douglas said. He said weather is also a factor. A rainstorm could complicate how graduates receive their diplomas, while a sunny day could make the experience uncomfortably hot.

“We understand this is a hardship,” Douglas said. “We want to celebrate our graduates, and have been working with our local health department to make that happen.

In addition to the parking lot graduation ceremonies, students will have yard signs and other materials provided to them.

RHS/NSHS — 

• Each graduate will be allowed one vehicle to enter the parking lot. A parent or guardian will be the driver and the graduate will be in the passenger seat. Each vehicle will be handed the commencement protocol and be directed to tune radio to a specific station. 

While you will be present for the entire ceremony, you may not necessarily be able to see everything. You will be escorted to the front row to take pictures when your graduate receives their diploma. Large vehicles will be parked towards the back, so please plan accordingly.

• Graduation will be held in parking lot. Cars may enter the side of the parking lot prior to the commencement ceremony and park in the designated area as directed.

• Mid-Utah Radio will broadcast on AM 980. Parents will be reminded upon entry to tune their radio to AM 980.

• Centracom Channel 10 and KTTA Channel 8.1 will livestream commencement for family members who can’t attend in the parking lot at https://local10.centracom.com.

• Law enforcement will be assisting in parking cars as well as directing traffic as the graduates leave the parking lot.

• All occupants must remain completely in the vehicle until escorted by an usher. Only due to emergency, will someone be allowed to exit the vehicle. Please plan accordingly for the duration of the graduation without use of facilities. Any violation of protocol will result in that graduate forfeiting the privilege of participating in the commencement proceedings and their diploma will be mailed.

• The normal valedictorian, salutatorian and other assigned speeches will be given from the stage. Administration will also give brief remarks and offer recommendations of graduates. Social distancing guidelines will be followed, those on the stage will be seated with ample separation space, etc.

• For the presentation of the individual graduates, ushers will escort graduates, with his/her family to the stage. They will exit their vehicle and follow the usher on the outlined route to the stage, maintaining proper social distancing. The graduate will place their name tag on a table for the announcer and proceed to the top of the stairs as that position becomes vacant. The family can proceed in front of the stage to take pictures. The graduate will proceed to the center of stage and retrieve a diploma case from the table and face the crowd as his/her name is read. He/she will then exit the stage.

As the graduate exits the stage on the opposite side, he/she will rejoin the family and proceed following the usher down the designated route returning to their vehicle.

• In place of the traditional “Changing of the Tassel” and “Cap Throw” everyone will be invited to join together in flashing lights and honking horns in celebration of the graduates.

SSHS/CRHS — 

• Each graduate will be allowed one vehicle to enter the parking lot. The parent or guardian will be the driver and the graduate will be in the front passenger seat.

• Information on the specifics of what vehicles are appropriate will be communicated directly with senior students and parents. The vehicle must fit into a regulation-parking stall — no RVs, trailers or buses. Every passenger must have a seat belt. No one will be allowed in the bed of a truck.

• Law enforcement will be assisting in the lineup of vehicles as well as directing traffic as the graduate leaves the parking lot.

• To begin, a car will pull up to the designated area. The graduate will get out and walk behind their vehicle.

• The graduate will be announced. They will walk up the path to the school and pick up a diploma cover sitting on a table, turn to face the photographer, turn their tassel, take a photo and then proceed to the gown drop-off area.

• Yearbook photographers will be taking pictures. Parents will need to take pictures from inside their vehicle as they will not be permitted to leave their vehicle.

• The graduate will walk to the next area where the graduate will drop their gown in a box and pick up their diploma and then get in their vehicle.

• The graduate will exit the school area and return home.

• Commencement will be streamed live on Centracom Channel 10 and KTTA Channel 8.1 and recorded for later broadcast. The narration will be the voices of the graduates previously recorded.

The Richfield Reaper will have a photographer/reporter present.

• Mid-Utah Radio will broadcast on KSVC 980 AM and 101.1 FM. Parents will be reminded upon entry to tune their radio.

• Information on the specifics of line up will be communicated directly with senior students and parents.

• All participants in our commencement exercise will be required to stay in their respective vehicle at all times while waiting for their turn exit the vehicle and receive their diploma. Any violation of protocol will result in that graduate forfeiting the privilege of participating in the commencement proceedings and their diploma will be mailed.

• Law enforcement will then assist in traffic control as vehicles proceed to designated exits (all occupants must remain in vehicles).

• The graduate will leave campus and return home.

• All participants in our commencement exercise will be required to stay completely in their respective vehicle. No person should be hanging out the window or out a sunroof, but remain completely in the vehicle at all times.

• Those students giving talks will be informed of how they will proceed prior to graduation day.

• Law enforcement and faculty members will help with the safety of social distancing and following state guidelines. Proper personal protective equipment will be provided for escorts upon request.

• We expect students/parents/guardians to be respectful during the ceremony. Please refrain from horn honking, air horns, etc.  Nothing is to be thrown from any vehicle. 

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