May 30 graduation a go for Warrenton seniors

GRADUATION SEATING – This graphic shows the grid pattern in which families will be seated during the Warrenton High School graduation May 30. Submitted image.
Derrick Forsythe
Staff Writer

The Warrenton High School Class of 2020 will graduate as planned. At least, to a degree.

The Warren County R-III School District will proceed with its original commencement ceremony date of May 30, making it one of a small number of schools in the state not to postpone graduation. The board voted 6-0 in favor of the decision during its monthly meeting on May 14.

“We got approval from the health department to have a social distancing type of graduation,” said R-III Superintendent Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith. “We’re thankful for them working closely with us and very much appreciate how open they’ve been in working out a plan to be able to do this for our seniors.”

While the date remains the same, the format of the ceremony will look considerably different than in previous years. A detailed seating structure has been put in place to provide for social distancing. Families will be seated on the turf football field in blocks of eight chairs, separated with six feet between each group. The diagram prepared allots for 288 squares, which should more than provide for the approximately 200 students expected to graduate.

“We feel like this setup should accommodate family and friends well,” said Klinginsmith. “We will also have seating in the bleachers but only use every third row to practice social distancing.”

The seniors, who are traditionally seated on the field, will instead be seated six feet apart long the south stretch of the track. Graduates will walk around to the north side of the track to receive their diplomas from school board members.

“Seniors will take a victory lap around the track, which is kind of cool and something different,” said Klinginsmith. “Usually they would come up on the stage to get their diploma cover, but this time we won’t be doing any handshakes and will just hand down from the stage, with the school board member in the background for a photo.”

The ceremony will also begin earlier than usual, with a 10 a.m. start time to allow for potential inclement weather.

“In years past, if we had rain, we could just go inside,” said Klinginsmith. “That is not an option this time given our current circumstance, so starting earlier would allow us to postpone into the afternoon or evening if needed. If it were to rain all day, we would push it to the following day.”

Several elements of the traditional graduation will not take place, with the choir and band performances eliminated due to social distancing challenges.

The keynote speaker, Jacob Woods, is unable to travel to the graduation, so that presentation will be shown on the video board.

Senior speeches will proceed as usual, with Yzabel Alvarez representing the Class of 2020.

Regarding the district’s decision to move forward with the original date and modified plan, Klinginsmith says the school’s athletic school setup allows for unique accommodations. It’s a time for turf field to play a significant role in making a non-sports event possible.

“Having turf on the field is really what makes this possible,” said Klinginsmith. “I don’t know if we could pull this off on a grass field in the case it would rain that day or prior. In this case, if we receive rain before the ceremony, it’s not a concern. We don’t have to worry about chairs sinking, mud or damage to the field.”

Klinginsmith says being able to provide the graduation experience for seniors demonstrates the teamwork of many involved and the resilience of the community. He says part of the process was being prepared for unexpected challenges, such as a pandemic that impacted nearly every area of the school’s operations.

“In education that’s one of the great things about this job is you never know what challenge will arise next,” said Klinginsmith. “You have to be willing to look at different scenarios to solve problems. We’ve got a great staff working together to come up with ideas to make this happen. We’re thankful to find ways to keep traditions alive, while keeping people safe. We really want to make it a special day for the seniors.”

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