Among the special observances administration didn’t want the Denison High School (DHS) Class of 2020 to go without in this COVID-19 changed school year is the graduation ceremony.
On Sunday, the seniors did get to walk across the stage on their scheduled graduation day while parents, siblings and friends cheered and took photos and videos from inside their cars.
The drive-through commencement, switched by the weather from in front of the high school building to the district’s bus barn, brought about some satisfying results that aren’t possible in a group ceremony.
Denison High School Principal Dave Wiebers said the ceremony was more personal for him than in the gym, and much less stressful as he didn’t have to read the names of graduates at a fast pace as he does when graduation is in the gym.
At Monday night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Mike Pardun commented how great it was to see how proud every single family is of their children.
“You know they are but you don’t always get to see that firsthand, and it was just fantastic to be able to see the parents across the way in contact with their kid on stage,” he said. “It was nice to see the kids and maybe help them bring a little closure to their senior year.”
“It was a different atmosphere,” said School Board President Kris Rowedder, who represented the board at Sunday’s ceremony. “It was sad we had to do it that way, but it was really kind of cool.”
She added later, “I hope we don’t have to do it that way again but it would be neat to do some parts of it.”
In his closing comments at Sunday’s ceremony, Wiebers had an emotional message for the graduates. When members of the Class of 2020 were in eighth grade, Wiebers was the middle school principal, and then he followed them on to the high school level for the next four years.
“The Class of 2020, this is not how I wanted to see you end your high school career,” he said.
“Each one of you has impacted me in some way. I hope I have impacted you in some way. And I want you to remember – once a Monarch, always a Monarch. Congratulations to the Class of 2020, and I can’t wait until the time I can give you a fist bump or a hug.”
Pardun gave recognition to a number of people for setting up the ceremony, which had originally been planned to take place outdoors in front of the high school building but was switched to the bus barn.
He gave special recognition to Wiebers, Dana Marten and Michael Phipps (the high school counselors) and Greg Gunderson (the director of technology).
Among others he mentioned for their support are Jennifer Kinsey and Adam Burns, who staged vehicles in the parking lot; transportation director Bob Scherff and custodians Ed Fink and Randy Cornelius.
A second drive-through graduation ceremony is planned for Sunday, May 31, for the students who were unable to make it to the ceremony on Sunday. Details for the May 31 ceremony are up in the air depending on how many participants are possible.
Wiebers said 162 seniors walked across the stage on Sunday.
He added that currently the school has confirmed nine seniors who would take part in the May 31 ceremony, with another three seniors possible.
A group ceremony is scheduled for July 12, depending on COVID-19 and virus mitigation circumstances.