Pickerington’s graduating class of 2020 will be recognized this month, but the commencement ceremonies will be held virtually.

Pickerington Schools Superintendent Chris Briggs and the school board decided to move forward with commencements for Pickerington High School Central and Pickerington High School North on May 23.

Rather than holding ceremonies in World Harvest Church as originally planned, the district will hold virtual ceremonies as a safety precaution because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“We are moving forward with a virtual graduation on the initial graduation date of May 23,” Briggs said. “We understand that this is disappointing for our seniors and we will do whatever we can to make this a memorable experience for them and their families.

“The health and safety of our students, staff and families remains our top priority.”

The school district’s public relations director, Crystal Davis, said components of the commencements will be recorded prior to the ceremonies.

A virtual ceremony for Central is planned for 9 a.m. May 23, and for North at 2 p.m. Both can be watched live on the district’s Facebook page.

Seniors wearing their caps and gowns will drive to a specified outdoor area on their high school’s grounds, exit their vehicle, walk to a stage – while the song “Pomp and Circumstance” is played – receive their diplomas, be recognized by their principal and have their picture taken by a professional photographer, according to a joint statement from Briggs and school board president Lori Sanders posted on the district’s website.

“While family members may be present in the vehicle – we ask that family members wear masks in the car – only the senior will be allowed to exit the car and walk to the stage area. This procedure will protect the safety of students and staff and keep the procession moving steadily forward. Each senior is allowed one car in the procession,” according to the statement.

Seniors and their families are being encouraged to decorate vehicles and will receive applause as they drive past staff sitting in their vehicles, the statement said.

The graduation walk processional, which will show every senior walking on stage, will be live streamed in its entirety on Facebook.

If it is raining, tents will be set up as alternate diploma hand out locations.

Principals from both high schools were to send event specifics to students and parents, including traffic flow routes and expectations for the graduation walk. The information was to include electronics device turn-in and final fee payments procedures.

At 8 p.m. May 23, videos of the commencements for each high school are to be published on YouTube.

Livestream footage from earlier in the day will not be included because it is to be already archived and available for viewing on Facebook, district officials said.

The virtual graduation programs will include keynote speakers, class speakers, Top 10 salutations and individual senior recognitions.

Briggs said the district received feedback from students and parents and integrated suggestions into the virtual ceremonies.

He and Sanders also said the district has additional plans for honoring the class of 2020 during the next few weeks.

Those activities were expected to include a Senior Door Decorating contest May 11-17 in which a senior from each school could win a gift card by decorating the front doors of their houses and posting pictures to social media.

From May 18-24, the district has planned a “Seniors Rock Chalk Walk.”

People are being asked to draw sidewalk chalk art to honor a senior and write motivational messages to neighbors during the pandemic, district officials said.

A “Light Up the Stadium for Seniors” event is slated for 8:20 p.m. – 20:20 military time – May 20.

Seniors, their friends and family can decorate their cars, drive by and honk their vehicle’s horns as the stadium lights remain lit for 20 minutes to honor the class of 2020, according to the district’s website.

“We realize this is not the graduation that any of us could possibly have anticipated at the beginning of the school year,” the district’s statement said. “But, we are trying to make your last week of high school and your big day as spectacular and memorable for you and your family as you had hoped it would be.

“We greatly appreciate your understanding, patience and support as we worked through this challenging process together, and I look forward to seeing each of you walk across the stage to mark this important bridge between the end to your high school career and a new, exciting beginning to the rest of your life.”