Pickerington Schools to hold in-person graduation, prom ceremonies

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group

Pickerington Schools will hold in-person graduation ceremonies with limited attendance May 22, the district announced April 5. 

Graduations will be held at World Harvest Church, 4595 Gender Road, Canal Winchester with Pickerington High School North's at 9 a.m. and Central's at 1 p.m.

Pickerington High School Central 2020 graduate Mary Teresita Berger adjusts the strap on her face mask. She was the first member of the class of 2020 to receive a diploma during commencement May 23, 2020.

Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and state and county restrictions on indoor gatherings, each graduate will be allowed two tickets.

“If (Gov. Mike DeWine) increases the indoor capacity above 25%, we will add additional tickets accordingly," a district press release stated. “The event will be streamed for family members or friends who are unable to attend. Additional information on how to access the streamed event will be forthcoming.”

According to the release, those attending are required to wear “appropriate face coverings.” Students will be bussed from their high school to World Harvest.

Celebratory items such as balloons, signs and flowers will be prohibited, and all who attend will be required to leave within two hours after the start of the ceremony to allow for proper cleaning and sanitizing.

District officials had been mulling how to proceed with graduation ceremonies after the pandemic forced the classes of 2020 to be recognized with drive-thru events.

From March 22-24, the district used an online survey to poll households of senior students about graduation ceremony preferences.  

According to the district, 185 of 276 responses from Central households indicated a preference for a traditional ceremony and 91 wanted a drive-thru event. 

For North, 130 of 217 responses preferred an in-person graduation with 87 opting for the drive-thru event.

Kassidy Stanley, a senior at Central, said she was pleased that traditional graduations will be held, but thinks the two-guest limit will cause hardships for some families, particularly among grandparents and those who have stepparents. 

"I'm really excited we get to have our graduation ceremony at World Harvest," Stanley said. "I'm just glad we get to have a normal ceremony. 

"The two tickets, though, that just didn't feel right. I know a lot of my friends have separated families. I think four tickets would have been more reasonable." 

Stanley said her two younger brothers won't be able to attend but joked they likely were relieved.

"I kind of wish it was outside, like at the football stadium, because the allowed capacity might have been much bigger," she said. 

David Carte, a senior at North, also was disappointed friends and grandparents who supported him through the years wouldn't be able to take attend but was pleased a traditional ceremony will be held. 

"I wish we were able to have maybe three tickets per family," he said. "I understand where they're coming from. I just wish it could be more traditional." 

The district also announced that if the current order of 25% capacity for indoor events is relaxed, proms for both schools will be at the Violet Township Wigwam Event Center, 10190 Blacklick-Eastern Road Northwest. North's prom would be April 24 and Central's May 1.

If the 25% order remains in place, both schools will have their proms in their building’s fieldhouse. 

“Only juniors and seniors from that building will be permitted to attend,” the release stated. “Juniors and seniors of that building who attend Pickerington Alternative School or the Eastland/Fairfield Career Center may also attend.”

The commons areas or main gymnasiums at each school will be used for after-prom activities.

While again recognizing the state's restrictions made for the prom decision difficult for district officials, Carte said he's likely going to skip his senior prom. 

Much of his decision is because his girlfriend is a freshman at the College of Wooster, and she wouldn't be able to attend. 

"I will probably do my own prom," Carte said. "I think it's expensive to just go an sit there. 

"I'll probably get dressed up and go to dinner with my girlfriend." 

Carte said he's heard that a number of students are planning to hold private parties. 

He said he's likely to celebrate in a low-key manner, possibly with his girlfriend and a bonfire at his house. 

"It doesn't make sense to me that we can't be around all our friends, underclassmen and people who go to different schools, but in the commons (at North) or the lunchroom, we're packed shoulder-to-shoulder all the time." 

Stanley is a member of the softball team and has a doubleheader scheduled earlier that day. She said she wasn't sure how much time she'd have to get ready or if the event would work for her logistically or financially, adding the safety restrictions might outweigh those other considerations. 

"I just feel like we really can't do anything," Stanley said. "It feels like an elementary fun night. We can't even dance.

"I'm having a hard time deciding. Prom dresses are not cheap. Nobody wants to spend $200 to $400 on a dress, maybe more, plus getting your hair and makeup done just to sit there."

Despite those issues, Stanley said she's leaning toward going because it's her last chance to go to prom, and the event was taken away last year. 

"I'm happy because I have a lot of junior friends in sports and I want them to come," she said. "But if it was just a senior event, I think maybe we could do more stuff." 

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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