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David Douglas, PPS, Parkrose craft novel commencement ceremonies for Class of 2020.

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Parkrose HIgh School 2020 seniors post Decision Day signs on the school lawn to share plans for their next steps.

Portland schools are revealing their plans to have COVID-19 "commencements" honoring the class of 2020 with celebrations that try to wring the best of a bad situation.

"Words cannot express how terrible I feel about how this year is finishing for you," David Douglas High Principal John Bier said in a letter to families of seniors.

Traditional commencements at big venues have been canceled due to the restrictions put in place to tamp down the spread of COVID-19. Because of restrictions, families won't be able to gather to watch their grads march in to "Pomp and Circumstance," hear commencement speeches or see the grads toss their mortarboards in celebration.

Instead, schools are planning drive-up or walk-up events and other substitute ceremonies.

David Douglas High School is having a drive or walk-up "Diploma Celebration" on Monday, June 1, and Tuesday, June 2. Students from the state's largest high school have been assigned time slots, organized by last name, and will attend one of four sessions.

Students will don caps and gowns and cross a stage set up outside on the high school grounds. Every student will get a free 8-by-10-inch photograph of their big moment.

"Social distancing will be practiced, and only one car per family is allowed. Walk-up is available for families without a vehicle," David Douglas instructed families.

David Douglas will share an "official" graduation ceremony online.

The school also is hoping to have a 2020 class reunion at the Scot's first home football game next school year, depending on the pandemic restrictions in place in the fall.

Portland Public Schools said in a letter to families, "We want to do what we can to protect traditions like graduation and prom by offering them in ways that keep students safe during the pandemic."

Portland Public's 10 high school will have drive-up/walk-up "Diploma Days" on Monday, June 8, Tuesday, June 9, and Wednesday, June 10.

PPS high schools will provide professional photographers to capture photos of the student getting their sheepskin.

Each of the PPS high schools will let students know when to show up for their Diploma Day slot and the routes and logistics particular to each school

PPS also warned that social-distancing requirements will be in place and they will limit the number of family members who can come along with graduating seniors.

The commencement program is a lifelong keepsake for many students. PPS will offer both printed paper and virtual versions of the traditional graduation program.

The online commencement program, available in June, will feature photos, comments from student and school leaders, lists of graduates, their honors and more.

Each school also will have a class of 2020 video specific to each school with remarks from principals and student leaders, performances by student groups, plus a photo and video review of the 2019-20 school year and other highlights. These school videos will be available on the district's cable and YouTube channels sometime over the summer.

Although not a part of graduation, PPS is hosting "Oregon's First Virtual Prom" from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, June 4. This livestream event will feature DJ O.G. One, the official DJ of the Portland Trail Blazers, special celebrity guests, social media challenges, giveaways and other surprises.

Parkrose High School will have a drive/walk-through ceremony from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 9, at the high school. The Bronco class of 2020 event will include a photographer, and students will receive awards during this procession.

Following the parade, the school will air a video with names of the graduates read aloud, speeches and a virtual turn of the tassel and mortarboard toss.

David Douglas' Bier was sympathetic to the grads: "Losing prom, activities and athletics were huge blows, but nothing compares to the loss of your graduation ceremony. Your class has been such a wonderful part of our school for the past four years, I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to sharing that night with you."


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