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Sandy High to host alternative events to celebrate Class of 2020's achievements

PMG FILE PHOTO - Because of the COVID-19 crisis, Sandy High will host its graduation outside as a procession rather than as traditionally done at Rolling Hills in Tualatin. The high school will have a graduation this year. However, it will look very different.

From 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, May 29, graduates of the class of 2020 are invited to participate in a drive-thru procession in front of Sandy High School. Three graduates at a time will be allowed to leave their cars in caps, gowns and masks and, one-by-one, receive their diploma cover and walk across a decorated platform while "Pomp and Circumstance" plays.

No parents or family members are allowed to exit the car, but families are encouraged to cheer and take photos from their vehicles. Honking is discouraged to ensure parents/drivers can hear their graduate's name announced.

"Once it became evident that a traditional graduation ceremony was not an option, we began planning for the one opportunity we knew would be doable — a virtual graduation," said Sandy High Principal Kim Ball. "Of course, we wanted more for our graduates, but we had to be patient and wait for updated guidance from the state. That guidance came out on April 30 and, based on the required safety measures, a drive-in graduation procession was the most viable option. It would allow families to be present, in their vehicle, and would allow our graduates to celebrate by crossing a stage."

The class of 2020 includes 296 students with eight valedictorians and three salutatorians.

In addition to the virtual graduation, the school is working on obtaining lawn signs for seniors and two other projects for the community that will be announced at a later date.

"Anytime there is a major change in the format of a tradition whether that is on a personal level or at school, there are lots of emotions involved around that change," Ball said. "We understand that it is difficult for people to be patient as the details are worked out. It was also important for us to make sure that Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority guidance was finalized before we shared plans as updates were regularly coming in."

Besides the challenge of planning the alternative graduation, Ball said administrators and teachers have found it difficult not being around students.

"The biggest challenge, and our biggest concern, is staying connected to students," Ball said. "Each family is having a different experience and we want to be able to support students in every way we can."

"(To the seniors:) Congratulations on completing 12 years of school and graduating from high school," she added. "Your family is proud of you. We are proud of you. You have risen to the occasion as well as overcome much to get to this point. As this chapter of life ends, so much more is beginning. Take advantage of every opportunity so that you can live your best life."

Step-by-step guidelines for parents and graduates are available online.

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