It’s been a memorable year for the Harbor’s high school seniors, but certainly not in the usual way.
Coronavirus precautions effectively yanked the rug out from under the Class of 2020 this spring. Classes were shifted online in March, putting an end to students’ day-to-day interaction and camaraderie. Sports, arts and other activities were canceled outright.
“They have missed out on so many events that create memories for a lifetime,” said Taholah High School Principal Patricia Larriva. “This is a time no one will soon forget.”
In an effort to make it up to them, local schools are getting creative with plans to honor their graduating seniors.
This past weekend, Ocosta’s 37 seniors were invited in shifts to have graduation photos taken with their families in front of the Wildcat statue. Each individual senior then entered the gym to be filmed walking across the stage in cap and gown to receive their diploma cover from Principal Chris Pollard and School Board President Greg Miller, with family members cheering them on from front-row seats.
A few staffers also cheered from the bleachers in the back during each presentation. “The acoustics in there are great, so it sounds like the place is full,” said Peter Gallo, the senior class adviser.
Later, when Ocosta’s actual diplomas are distributed, each family will receive a thumb drive containing the formal pictures — along with a video that will be pieced together to show the entire ceremony, with all 37 walking across the stage.
Hoquiam High School is formulating a similar plan for its 120 grads, according to Principal Brock Maxfield. But instead of using thumb drives, the school plans to broadcast its edited production online June 19.
“Since we just received new guidance from the state, we are still working on it,” he said last week.
A few other Harbor schools are taking a different tack.
Aberdeen will stage a parade June 12 to honor its 210 graduates. It will begin at 6 p.m., starting from the Shoppes at Riverside parking lot and continuing over the Chehalis Bridge and past the high school. The full parade route will be finalized later.
Because Grays Harbor County has moved into Phase 2 of reopening, the students may be walking onto Stewart Field to receive their diplomas after the parade. School officials have not yet made that decision.
A slideshow also is being created featuring photos of all the AHS seniors. It will be posted on YouTube, with a Zoom watch party scheduled June 11 at 6 p.m. with senior Annika Eisele hosting.
North Beach Jr./Sr. High School is planning an socially distant outdoor ceremony for June 13.
In addition to the traditional cap and gown, the 37 students graduating will wear special cloth masks designed, sewn and decorated by local nurse and business owner Judy Mahew. They will march onto Lt. Jim Davis Field at 5 p.m. and find their designated spots, 6 feet apart. Each one will make a brief statement as they received their diplomas, and the top three grads will give full speeches.
Their families will be allowed to drive onto the field to watch the ceremony from their vehicles. The ceremony also will be live-streamed on the district and school Facebook pages, and broadcast on KOSW radio. The video will be available on YouTube shortly afterward.
“As graduates collect their diplomas and leave the stadium, I expect a fanfare unlike anything previously heard in Ocean Shores,” said Superintendent Andy Kelly. “We hope the community will join us by creating a cacophony. Cheer! Honk your car horns! Bang pots and pans together! Let the Class of 2020 know you are proud!”
Taholah — one of the Harbor’s smaller schools, with 15 seniors graduating this year — is still working on its plans, but Larriva said there are two possibilities in the works for the evening of June 10.
“Depending on the weather and mandated guides given to us from (the state superintendent’s office), it will either be on our football field with the cars lined up like drive-in movie style, or in our gym with only graduates and their parents and guardians,” she said.
Either way, Larriva said, it will be a short ceremony that follows social-distancing protocols. It will be live-streamed so the community can watch in real time, and afterward there will be a parade through town to honor the new grads.
“Maybe this can create some new traditions for our future graduates,” she said.
Most other Harbor schools have not yet announced their graduation plans. Montesano, for example, has set a date of July 11, but the school’s website says: “The actual time and format of the ceremony will be determined as we move forward.”
For updated information on specific schools, keep an eye on their web and Facebook pages.