The graduation ceremony for Gahanna Lincoln High School’s class of 2020 has been rescheduled to July 25 in the Jerome Schottenstein Center, 555 Borror Drive in Columbus.

The state of Ohio has prohibited mass gatherings in an effort to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, so Gahanna’s original graduation date of May 25 had to be postponed.

Gahanna Lincoln High School principal Jessica Williams said she understands the significance of a traditional graduation and knows how important that milestone is for seniors.

“Our hearts go out to our seniors and their families who have worked so hard for so many years to get to this point in their education, and we are committed to celebrating their accomplishments,” she said.

If a traditional ceremony cannot be held because of restrictions on large gatherings, Williams said, she will work on alternate plans to celebrate and congratulate seniors.

She said she’s working with an advisory group to brainstorm nontraditional ways to honor Gahanna’s senior class.

Judy Hengstebeck, district communications coordinator, said Gahanna joined other districts across Ohio and the Ohio High School Athletic Association at 8:20 p.m. (20:20 military time) April 20 to “Light Up the Night” in honor of the class of 2020.

The Lincoln High School football stadium was illuminated for 20 minutes to honor graduating seniors, who will complete their final high school year through distance learning.

Hengstebeck said students were not allowed in the stadium, but a few gathered safely in cars in the parking lot.

Superintendent Steve Barrett said he and district leaders empathize with students and families over the loss of events such as prom, awards ceremonies, spring sports and spending time with teachers and friends at school.

“While we know we can’t replace everything lost in these last months of their senior year, we will continue to look for other opportunities to celebrate our seniors,” he said.

Following Gov. Mike DeWine’s April 20 announcement that school buildings would be closed for the remainder of the academic year, Barrett said, he shares in the disappointment of students, parents and teachers.

“While we knew an extended closure for the remainder of the academic year was a real possibility, and we agree it is extremely important for us to continue to prevent the spread of the virus, it is very sad and difficult to officially hear that we will not be able to return safely to finish out the year together,” he said.

Barrett said the district will continue with distance learning for the remainder of the school year.

“We believe it is important to stay connected and keep learning going, supporting one another in any way we can,” he said.

He said the district’s Child Nutrition Department will continue to distribute grab-and-go meals to students in need. Teachers, counselors and principals will continue to monitor students who might need additional emotional support during this difficult time, he said.

Moving forward, Barrett said, the district will reflect on its current distance-learning plan, the learning structures and platforms being used and the feedback received from staff members, students and parents.

“We will follow the guidance provided by the Ohio Department of Health, the Ohio Department of Education and Gov. DeWine to ensure we have a solid plan for welcoming our students to the new year,” he said.

“Although we are very proud of how quickly our teachers and students adjusted to learning online, we know distance learning cannot replace the rich and robust learning that occurs in a traditional classroom.

“We also know that much of our success is dependent on students and teachers building strong, face-to-face relationships, and the start of the school year is a particularly important time for this.”

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla