Olentangy Schools has had to develop a backup backup plan for the graduating class of 2020.

In a letter addressed to seniors and parents and signed by Superintendent Mark Raiff and the district’s four high school principals, Olentangy announced a new plan for graduation ceremonies May 6.

Graduation will be held in two parts. The first will be a drive-thru “Commencement Walk” on the following schedule at the high schools: 4 p.m. May 28 at Olentangy High School; 4 p.m. May 29 at Olentangy Berlin High School; 9 a.m. May 30 at Olentangy Orange High School; and 9 a.m. May 31 at Olentangy Liberty High School.

A virtual graduation ceremony will be held at “a designated date and time in early June,” the letter stated.

“The district and building leadership have worked tirelessly to establish a creative plan to recognize and honor the very special class of 2020 after revised orders and guidance from the state which limits the district on the types of events we may hold. Our current plan became the only option that was viable for approval by the (Delaware General) Health District,” Raiff told ThisWeek.

The district previously had announced it was moving its graduation ceremonies from May 17 to July 19 while keeping the events at the Jerome Schottenstein Center and holding the four ceremonies consecutively in one day.

As guidelines provided by Gov. Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Health were updated, it became apparent that plan would not be feasible either.

“We recognize this may not work for every single senior and every single family. However, please know in this time of change and uncertainty we will do our very best to recognize and remember all the Class of 2020 has to offer our world,” the letter read.

Per the letter, the procedure for the graduation ceremonies will include assigned times and restrictions regarding who can ride in and exit vehicles during the ceremony.

“Each graduating senior will arrive in a passenger vehicle, seated in the front passenger seat, and will require one driver to accompany them. Other family members may ride in the car with the student. One car per student will be permitted. Families with multiple graduates may discuss special arrangements with the building principal if needed. Staggered arrival times will be assigned for families to arrive on school property. Cars will follow a continuous, marked route with one stop in front of the school entrance. As cars approach the front entrance, students will exit the car, the graduate’s name will be announced, the principal will distribute a diploma cover to the student and a professional photo will be taken,” the letter stated.

Only the student will be permitted to exit the vehicle. Once the student returns to the vehicle, families must exit school property. No other guests will be permitted on school property.

The events will have an audio broadcast on-site and on radio station WDLR (92.9 FM and 1550 AM).

The June virtual ceremony will be held on a date to be determined. It will include pre-recorded speeches and announcement of the names of graduates irrespective of whether they participated in the drive-thru commencement.

“The virtual ceremony will end with flipping the tassel and tossing the graduation cap in the air,” the letter stated.

“We recognize this is not the commencement you want, but we hope these events allow all of us to safely celebrate the Class of 2020 both in person and online with a plan that has been approved by the Delaware General Health District,” the letter to students and parents read.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews

Here's the letter

Dear Class of 2020 students and parents,

One month ago we communicated our plan to hold our graduation ceremonies at The Schottenstein Center on July 19, 2020. As weeks passed and the COVID-19 pandemic evolved, it became increasingly clear that it would be unlikely that we would be able to gather in July in the manner in which was planned.

During the week of April 27, Governor DeWine, the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Health outlined specific guidance for graduation ceremonies and end-of-the-year student recognition. From that point forward, our team has worked tirelessly to establish a creative plan to recognize the very special Class of 2020. We believe we have a plan that safely honors our seniors and celebrates the culmination of 13 years of hard work.

We ask for patience, grace, flexibility and understanding as we share our plan. We recognize this is not the commencement you want, but we hope these events allow all of us to safely celebrate the Class of 2020 both in person and online with a plan that has been approved by the Delaware General Health District.

Recognition of the Class of 2020 will occur in two phases, outlined below. Participation is not mandatory but we sincerely hope you join us.

Phase 1: Commencement Walk

All four high schools will host a commencement walk on their school properties at the end of May for graduating seniors. Each graduating senior will arrive in a passenger vehicle, seated in the front passenger seat, and will require one driver to accompany them. Other family members may ride in the car with the student. One car per student will be permitted. Families with multiple graduates may discuss special arrangements with the building principal if needed. Staggered arrival times will be assigned for families to arrive on school property. Cars will follow a continuous, marked route with one stop in front of the school entrance. As cars approach the front entrance, students will exit the car, the graduate’s name will be announced, the principal will distribute a diploma cover to the student and a professional photo will be taken.

No family members will be permitted to get out of the car. The student will re-join their family in the car and follow the continuous route and exit the school property.

Radio station WDLR (92.9 FM and 1550 AM) will provide its sound system which the school will use to announce each student’s name. WDLR will livestream the commencement event and the announcement of each student’s name as they receive their diploma cover, with pomp and circumstance playing in the background. WDLR will broadcast live on their radio stations and on the school campus.

The commencement walk will take place over four days, one day per school, with the expectation that each event will last multiple hours. The days are assigned to schools from smallest to largest graduating class so organizers may manage any event planning adjustments that will need to be made related to the scope and size of these events.

Olentangy High School: Thursday, May 28 – 4 p.m.

Olentangy Berlin High School: Friday, May 29 – 4 p.m.

Olentangy Orange High School: Saturday, May 30 – 9 a.m.

Olentangy Liberty High School: Sunday, May 31 -- 9 a.m.

To ensure continuous traffic flow, students will be assigned staggered arrival times by last name, but will not need to assemble in alphabetical order. Additional detailed information about this event will be sent next week outlining arrival times and event specifics. Please note, we are unable to accommodate any other guests on our property during the commencement walk. We encourage extended family and friends to tune into WDLR (92.9 FM and 1550 AM) to join our celebration.

Phase 2: Virtual Graduation Ceremony

A video will be created for a virtual graduation ceremony that will be shared on a designated date and time in early June. All speeches and remarks will be pre-recorded. Each graduate’s name will be announced regardless of whether or not they participated in the commencement walk. The virtual ceremony will end with flipping the tassel and tossing the graduation cap in the air.

The virtual graduation date will be announced at a later date once the district finalizes the work with the video production company and a target completion date is confirmed. Our goal is to create a meaningful and memorable ceremony that can be shared with our students, staff, families, friends and community that illustrates how proud we are of our graduates’ accomplishments and resilience.

We are pleased to have a plan to celebrate the Class of 2020. We recognize this may not work for every single senior and every single family. However, please know in this time of change and uncertainty we will do our very best to recognize and remember all the Class of 2020 has to offer our world.

Sincerely,

Mark T. Raiff, Superintendent, Olentangy Schools

Todd Spinner, Principal, Olentangy Berlin High School

Rob Griffiths, Principal, Olentangy High School

Michael Starner, Principal, Olentangy Liberty High School

Trond Smith, Principal, Olentangy Orange High School