School districts find creative ways to recognize the Class of 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic
By Brett Auten
Having its last eight weeks turned on its head, the Class of 2020 has had to adapt and adjust.
With the COVID-19 outbreak putting the kibosh on all end-of-the-year celebrations and festivities, administrators, teachers and parents all found unique ways to give the Class of 2020 a tip of the cap.
Some neighborhoods have become inventive.
Last week, at Lake Sherwood Estates, a celebration was held to recognize 15 seniors. Though the graduates went to varying high schools, they all grew up together. Along with a car parade, there was a makeshift graduation ceremony put together on a beach.
“We wanted to give the kids something to remember,” Suzanne Bennett, a Lake Sherwood Estates resident said. “For some of them, this will be their only graduation.”
In the Francis Howell School District, graduation for all of the district’s high schools has been rescheduled for July 11. Whether that’s virtual, in-person with social distancing or a blended option, is still to be decided. FHSD will follow the guidance from county health officials and the Center for Disease Control to make that determination closer to the July 11 date.
In the meantime, at Francis Howell High, the Class of 2020 bought yard signs for all graduates as the staff and more than 70 people delivered all of them to the 400-plus students. Also, billboards were congratulating the Class of 2020 for two weeks and an online senior awards ceremony was held. Volunteer staff members are currently writing individual notes of congratulations to Viking graduates.
Francis Howell North placed signs in the yards of each of its seniors and has rented a digital billboard on Highway 364 and used it to feature a congratulatory sign designed by one of its seniors specifically for the class of 2020. The Howell North counseling department has also collaborated with the publications department to put together a three-night virtual senior awards ceremony. On May 28, Howell North will be holding a senior drive-thru parade on campus where students will have a chance to say goodbye to teachers and underclassmen.
“Since we can’t honor our seniors in the ways that we usually do, we’re doing everything we can to honor them in other ways,” Francis Howell North principal Dr. Nathanael Hostetler said.
Francis Howell Central partnered with its parent clubs to provide each senior a graduation sign in their yard and also rented an electronic billboard on Highways 364 and 94 to celebrate the class of 2020. Along with a celebratory distribution of graduation items to all seniors, Howell Central developed a virtual Senior Awards Night, a virtual Senior Spring Sports Night, and a senior parade through campus.
In the St. Charles School District, graduation plans for July 25 for St. Charles High School, and July 26 for St. Charles West is coming along nicely. Information and specific logistics for graduation will be sent out in early June.
Along with special sign in each senior’s yard, during the weeks of May 18 and May 25, each senior had their senior picture displayed on a rotating electronic billboard sign at the intersection of Highway 94 and Interstate 70. There is also a light up the football field for each graduation at 8:20 p.m. for 20 minutes to show support. St. Charles High’s lights will go on Thursday, May 28, and St. Charles West’s lights will go on Sunday, May 31. Both will be at 8:20 p.m. and last for 20 minutes. Both schools are planning a parade to honor each senior class in conjunction with the stadium lights event. There will be a virtual celebration for the senior recognition award events.
In the Wentzville School District, high schools Holt, Liberty and Timberland have done a mixture of recognitions.
Plans are in place for graduation ceremonies at the Family Arena on July 25. Additionally, on the seniors’ last day each school held a senior sendoff parade at the school for seniors. There were video tributes for the class and the district took out a billboard for two weeks.
At Orchard Farm High School the plan is to hold an in-person outdoor graduation ceremony on Saturday, July 11 at 9 a.m. They hold their ceremony on campus and will be following all social distancing recommendations of the St. Charles County Department of Public Health.