by Mike Knaak
The Sartell-St. Stephen school board approved plans for a unique high school graduation and more details of the program designed to compile with social distancing restrictions were announced at the board’s May 18 meeting.
Public health guidelines for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic ruled out traditional graduation events and school leaders designed an alternative.
The replacement plan now approved for Saturday, May 30, includes a drive-in movie type ceremony at the high school parking lot. The program begins at 9 p.m. and lasts about 45 minutes.
Additional details shared at the school board meeting:
–vehicles will enter the north lot where there’s a space for 350 cars.
–one vehicle per senior’s household except if a student has a second family.
–as the vehicles enter, seniors will receive a program, a class flower and a reminder about social distancing rules.
–vehicles will be parked 6 six feet apart and windows can be rolled down.
–student speakers get out of their cars and use a microphone when it’s their time to speak.
–giant screens will be placed around the parking lot.
–WJON-FM, 95.3, will broadcast the event and the program will be livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel so people anywhere can watch.
–except for speakers, people can’t leave their cars.
–in case of rain the event will be 2 p.m., Sunday, May 31.
Before the state issued specific rules for graduation ceremonies, seniors and school administrators had proposed an event with each student receiving a diploma while maintaining social distancing. That event would have been followed by a gathering later in the summer on the football field.
Under the latest Department of Education rules, those plans couldn’t happen so the school developed the drive-in option.
“When we shared this plan with the senior graduation committee, they were so sad about not being able to do what they originally planned,” Brenda Steve, high school principal, said. “It breaks my heart that some of things they wanted to do we won’t be able to do but we’re going to try to make this the absolute best that we can for the kids.”
The night before the drive-in graduation ceremony, parents and community members plan a Salute to Seniors parade set for 7 p.m. May 29 along Pinecone Road.
Starting at 6 p.m. seniors will be lined up on the walking path from 15th Street to 27th Street. A congratulatory yard sign with their name will designate their spot and the students will be placed 15 to 20 feet apart.
Family, friends, teachers, staff and coaches will decorate cars and drive the route to recognize and honor the seniors with cheers, music and signs.
Because of state guidelines, no portable toilets will be set out along the route. To adhere to public health guidelines, parade entries will be limited to those directly associated with the students – no businesses or other random groups.
More information about the Senior Salute is available at www.everythingsartell.com/senior-salute-2020. The website includes a map, event details and a place to register.