Unconventional graduations during global pandemic

COVID-19 has had a serious impact on everyone in the world but among those who have been the most negatively impacted are seniors in high school and college. 

Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) cancelled class for the rest of the year. The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City followed suit and indefinitely cancelled class at all Catholic schools in the diocese. Other private schools such as Heritage Hall and Casady have also cancelled indefinitely. Schools have assigned online coursework and implemented initiatives like “Continuous Learning” as a means for students to complete the year’s learning material. 

Seniors were supposed to come back from spring break refreshed and ready to rule the school for their last two months of high school, as every class who’s come before has done. Instead, the Coronavirus pandemic robbed high school seniors of Prom, the ability to step on the campus they’ve been walking for four years now, and a traditional graduation ceremony. Gov. Kevin Stitt ordered all nonessential businesses to close or remain closed until April 30, encouraged citizens to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, stay at home, and follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

High school graduation is a large event, typically attended by upwards of 500 people (at Bishop McGuinness) and thousands at any public school in OKC or Edmond. Large crowds are breeding grounds for the spread of COVID-19. Due to the size of these events, it would be very dangerous to hold graduation ceremonies at this time, especially for grandparents and other immunocompromised populations. Currently, school systems across the globe are brainstorming ideas for alternative graduation ceremonies. 

It may be possible to host graduation online whether through Instagram or Facebook Live, video chat, YouTube or website announcements. It would not be possible to hold a video chat graduation because no network such as Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime can allow that many people to join the call. It may be possible to hold one call for each family as the student walks across their living room in their cap and gown and receives a digital copy of their diploma. However, it would be a challenge for the administration to get through every student in a timely manner and this individually-oriented approach diminishes the unity of the class, who dreamed of crowding the high school stage together, graduating as one class. 

Hosting a live video of the principal, valedictorian, salutatorian, and other administration officials having the ceremony as students and family members tune in on Facebook, Instagram, or another platform is another way to virtually bring students together for a non-traditional graduation ceremony. However, this runs the risk of some students not attending or abusing the privilege of social media and saying inappropriate things. 

The best option is to postpone until the quarantine period ends and it is safe for us to congregate and socialize as usual but it is relatively unknown when that day will come, as the experts have opposing opinions. Although, it may not be a smart move to jeopardize that freedom by holding huge events right as the population exits quarantine. It is most likely that schools will proceed by postponing festivities until the summer, assuming that the Coronavirus has peaked by then and the CDC says it’s safe to leave our houses and congregate in masses again. However our generation decides to approach graduation, rest assured it will not be a traditional route and the Class of 2020 must be prepared to face that reality. Safety should be everyone’s top priority during this time.