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Schools in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District will hold in-person ceremonies with students walking stage

PMG FILE PHOTO - Graduation will still happen in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, but it will look different. Graduations are on in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District — though they will look quite a bit different as high schools take precautions due to the COVID-19 crisis.

On Wednesday, May 6, the district announced that all three high schools — West Linn High School, Wilsonville High School, and Arts and Technology High School — will host in-person ceremonies on their originally scheduled dates. The WLHS ceremony will take place June 2, while Arts and Technology is set for June 3, and WHS will be June 4.

According to Communications Director Andrew Kilstrom, the ceremonies will follow a drive-thru format that will allow for students to individually walk across an outdoor stage to receive their diplomas.

"Students will select a time slot in advance of their graduation ceremony and arrive by car," Kilstrom wrote in an email to district families. "Graduates will remain in their vehicle until they get to the front of the line. When it is their turn, they will be asked by a staff member to exit their car and proceed to the graduation stage with up to two family members. Graduates will have their name called as they walk across the stage and receive their diploma from the superintendent or school board member."

Kilstrom said there will be several time slots available throughout the day to ensure everyone can participate, and a map of the graduation route will be sent to families so that designated streets, entrances and exits can be used.

A professional photographer will be on hand at the ceremonies, and there will be a designated picture-taking area.

The ceremony also will be livestreamed, and a full video with speeches, student performances and photos will be shared in the days following graduation.

"High school principals will be sending out more details about these graduation plans in the coming days, including information for signing up for your graduation time slot, the car route and other important details," Kilstrom said. "We are also working with local city officials to proclaim the week of June 1 'Senior Class of 2020 Week' for all West Linn-Wilsonville graduates, including several opportunities to celebrate the Class of 2020 in the greater community."

According to Kilstrom, the graduation plan was formed with input from senior students, staff, graduation party committees and families.

"While we realize this will look different from what we are all used to, it is important that we hold these important celebrations on the original dates that our students and families had planned for over a year ago," he said. "This ensures that all students can participate in and experience this momentous occasion. High school staff will still hope to host informal in-person celebrations later in the summer."

Shortly after the district announced its plans, WHS Principal Kelly Schmidt also sent a message to families.

"As the parent of a senior myself, this decision hits very close to home," Schmidt said in the email. "We know that there is no event we can plan that will replace the magic of a traditional graduation ceremony. However, we can promise it will be memorable!"

Schmidt added that the school had considered holding a ceremony later in the summer, but decided against that after hearing from several families who were planning to move out of the area after graduation. And, Schmidt said, there was no guarantee that restrictions around large gatherings would be lifted later in the year.

According to Schmidt, caps and gowns will be distributed May 27.

"Students who have earned cords and spring athletic/activity awards will also receive them at this time," Schmidt said. "This will be a drive-thru event for students during the day."

A senior awards ceremony will be streamed online June 1, and students will receive the actual awards either during the graduation ceremony or by mail with their diplomas.

The actual graduation ceremony on June 4 will take place between 1-7:30 p.m.

"Graduation will be hosted at Wilsonville High School for students and their guests," Schmidt said. "Families will sign up for a 30-minute window of time. During this time, each student will join a distanced formation, walk across the stage, be awarded their diploma, and have photo opportunities. We will broadcast speeches via the app Mixlr as you are celebrated with your teachers standing by!"

Each graduate will receive a "Class of 2020" car pass for one vehicle per parent mailing address. Drivers will need to remain at the wheel while up to two people can accompany each student as they make their way to the stage.

Finally, a Class of 2020 Celebration is scheduled for Aug. 1.

"This will be subject to social-distancing guidelines being lifted," Schmidt said. "The details of this event will be determined as we know more."

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