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High school seniors will get virtual graduations and pick up diplomas via curbside event

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin High School graduates celebrate at Memorial Coliseum in Portland in 2013. The class of 2020 will take part in a drive-up diploma ceremony and virtual graduation event, as a national pandemic and statewide orders prohibit traditional commencement ceremonies.Graduating seniors in Tigard and Tualatin won't see a traditional graduation ceremony this year. Instead, the Tigard-Tualatin School District is planning a drive-up diploma ceremony, as well as virtual ceremonies.

Students at Tigard High School and Tualatin High School are encouraged to load into cars with their families on June 20. The school district says grads will be able to get photos in their caps and gowns and pick up their high school diplomas.

Students at Creekside Community High School will get a virtual ceremony on June 4, with Creekside staff delivering graduation gifts, caps and tassels to students later in May. A party for Creekside grads and their families is also planned, once larger social gatherings are permitted.

Specific locations for the drive-through events have yet to be announced.

"No pandemic can minimize the pride we feel for our Class of 2020," a letter to students and families from the district's high school principals and director of secondary education states. "We recognize and respect the anxiety and frustrations this new environment presents in all that we're doing."

District leaders said they sought feedback from families and students and consulted guidelines from the Oregon Department of Education about how best to celebrate graduates and honor their hard work and accomplishments while still adhering to COVID-19 safety precautions.

The modified graduation plans were announced last week.

While much of the tradition of a conventional commencement ceremony will be foregone for now, the district said Tigard-Tualatin staff will still be on hand to congratulate students with "air high-fives or fist bumps" before they step out to pick up their diplomas from a table and pose for a photo, before getting back in their cars.

Virtual graduation events will include a personalized video of each graduate and their families, along with recorded speeches and a prompt for the ceremonial turning of the tassel.

The school district suggested that if state health officials relax the prohibition on larger group gatherings, there could be another event held this summer.

"As soon as we are allowed to congregate in large groups, we will host community celebrations to further honor and recognize our graduating Class of 2020," the district's letter notes. "If the orders from the state are lifted in time, this event could take place later in the summer. If not, we will plan and coordinate a one-year reunion next summer. Either way, we are committed to bringing the Class of 2020 together in-person in the future, with their families, to celebrate their accomplishments."

The Tigard-Tualatin School District was the first in the state to announce a lengthy closure over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. In-person classes haven't been held in the district since March 12.

Oregon schools are closed for at least the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, by order of Gov. Kate Brown.

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