Oregon Trail Academy prepares for two-part commencement ceremony on Friday, June 5

PMG FILE PHOTO - The first of OTAs graduation ceremonies took place last year at Timberline Lodge. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the school has had to adapt for this year. This year, the second class of seniors will graduate from Oregon Trail Academy. Unlike their predecessors, they will not get a ceremony at Timberline Lodge. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, staff at Oregon Trail Academy will host a two-part commencement for the Class of 2020, including a drive-thru commencement and a pre-recorded ceremony with speeches and a photo slideshow tribute to the graduates.

"Our original plan was to have commencement at Timberline Lodge, but COVID-19 forced us to alter that," said Director Tim Norfleet. "We wanted to honor the graduates and celebrate their hard work in a format that could be shared with their friends and family. To do so, we researched what options were available and also looked at what other schools were doing. Eventually we chose to do a two-part commencement."

During the drive-thru component from 2-5 p.m. Friday, June 5, graduates will be allowed to wear their cap and gown to have photos taken while they receive their diplomas. The pre-recorded ceremony will include speeches by a guest speaker as well as the valedictorian and salutatorian and photos and words of encouragement for the graduates from their families and take place virtually at 6 p.m. Friday, June 5.

"The biggest challenge has been having to accept what we could reasonably do while trying to meet students' and families' expectations," Norfleet said. "The students deserve to have the commencement still be an important piece of the high school experience. However, social distancing and public gathering restrictions limited what we could accomplish and still keep the ceremony a somewhat formal occasion."

Forty students will graduate from OTA this year – eight times as many graduates as the inaugural class of 2019. Norfleet said he wants the students and families to enjoy the celebration of the students' hard work but asks all who attend to please adhere to the guidelines set by the school for public safety.

"The event will be successful if the students and their families follow the guidelines for the event, but we also want them to enjoy it. It's a challenge to find the right balance," Norfleet explained. "For our seniors, we know it may seem unfair. It is not the graduation they or we envisioned. You are living through a period that will be written about in history books. Please know that this situation in no way takes away from the hard work, late nights, and sacrifices that you and your families have made to reach this point. We believe in you and in the world you will create through the creativity, perseverance, and teamwork we have already seen from you. Good luck and congratulations."

PMG FILE PHOTO - Oregon Trail Academy. Guidance for grads

Families of graduates are asked to please read and follow these guidelines:

• Cars will pull into the MYP roundabout and stop in front of the main entrance. Please no more than three cars at a time.

• Graduating seniors will step out of their car onto a designated, social-distanced spot to wait their turn.

• No other people are allowed out of the vehicle at any time.

• The graduate will pick up their diploma cover.

• With "Pomp and Circumstance" playing, the graduates will be invited to walk across the stage area as their name is read.

• Families are encouraged to cheer and take pictures from inside their car.

• The graduate will re-enter their car and exit the OTA parking lot to enjoy the rest of the festivities with their families.

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