Pickerington Schools still mulling decisions on graduation, prom

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Pickerington Schools

As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues, Pickerington Schools officials still are weighing options for this year’s graduations. 

Last month, Hilliard City Schools announced it would hold traditional graduation ceremonies for its three high schools at Ohio State University’s Jerome Schottenstein Center.

Conversely, Olentangy Schools informed parents and students it would not hold its 2021 commencement at the Schottenstein Center, instead opting for a drive-thru format for the second year in a row.

Pickerington Schools officials have yet to decide whether the May 22 graduation ceremonies for Pickerington High School Central and Pickerington High School North will be held at World Harvest Church – the traditional venue – or in a drive-thru setting like in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Ultimately, the Pickerington Board of Education will make the final choice. 

No decision had been made as of March 31. 

Last month, the district polled households with students in the class of 2021. 

“Surveys were sent to all families of our senior students,” said Crystal Davis, Pickerington Schools public relations director. 

Davis said 1,432 emails were sent; the survey was open from 4 p.m. March 22 to 4 p.m. March 24. Recipients were asked only if they preferred a drive-thru ceremony or a traditional one. 

According to results provided by the district, of the 276 responses from Central households, 185 indicated they want a traditional ceremony and 91 preferred a drive-thru event. 

As for  North, the district received 217 responses with 130 indicating a preference for a traditional ceremony and 87 opting for a drive-thru ceremony. 

“It is not a done deal,” Davis said. “The district has not made any announcements." 

If the district holds a traditional ceremony at World Harvest, it will cost $12,000, Davis said. That is the same price as in 2019, the last time the ceremonies were held there. 

Board member Lori Sanders said based on current state and county guidelines for public gatherings, the district likely would have to limit attendance if it holds ceremonies at World Harvest Church, with each graduate being limited to two guests.   

"We hope this will be increased before graduation," Sanders said. 

As for which format she prefers, Sanders said "there are positives and negatives to both options," but she would lean toward a traditional ceremony, given the public feedback the district has received. 

"For me as a board member, I want to do what the majority of the senior families want," she said. "We are still in a situation of caution for gatherings, so the comfort level of the majority of people is certainly a consideration." 

Another event district officials are working to finalize is prom for both high schools. 

The events were scheduled last spring at Violet Township’s Wigwam Event Center before being canceled.

Davis said the district does intend to hold North’s prom April 24 and Central’s on May 1  but said district officials are “still working on a plan” for the events. 

Under current state COVID-19 guidelines from the county department of health, the Wigwam’s banquet center is not large enough to accommodate the number of students, staff members and parents who would attend the proms, she added. 

“The building administrators and the district office are working together on a plan that allows our students to have a prom experience and still follow the guidelines from our health department as well as keeping everyone safe,” Davis said. 

Those sentiments were echoed by school board member Vanessa Niekamp, who said the board, as well as district and school administrators, are working to develop plans to allow students to celebrate significant milestones in a safe manner. 

“The board intends to make sure our students receive a graduation and prom this year,” Niekamp said. “We have taken parent input into the type of ceremony they prefer for graduation via a survey and are quickly developing plans for a prom. 

“These events will happen, but due to the continued COVID restrictions of Gov. (Mike) DeWine, they may not include everything we would like to provide for our kids.” 

nellis@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekNate