CWHS graduation adjusts to coronavirus shutdown

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Canal Winchester Schools’ leaders are making plans for a Canal Winchester High School graduation ceremony impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

During an April 20 Canal Winchester Board of Education teleconference, Superintendent James Sotlar commented on plans to celebrate the end-of-school rite of passage for seniors in a way that complies with social distancing.

“The governor came out and said we’re pretty much done for the year,” said Sotlar, who said restrictions on mass gatherings—such as graduation ceremonies like those held in the past—will probably be in place for several months.

On April 27, Sotlar sent a letter to seniors and their families outlining a modified virtual graduation ceremony after the Ohio Department of Education issued new guidelines on April 23.

“This was not an easy decision to make and my heart breaks for our seniors,” said Sotlar, “but this is the best decision and in the best interest for everyone’s health, wellness and safety.”

According to Sotlar’s letter, the ceremony will consist of pre-recording each student in their cap and gown taking the traditional walk to receive their diploma and have their picture taken.

Additional recordings will be made and then edited together into a full ceremony that will include Principal Kirk Henderson’s introduction, valedictorian speech, presentation of the class of 2020 by the senior class secretary and acknowledgement of graduation by the senior class president.

A final video will be produced and shown online on May 30 at 11 a.m.
Each graduate will be allowed four guests to accompany them at the diploma recording and will be assigned a specific time to arrive at the high school May 12-14.

“Guests will arrive with the student and escort the student as they make the walk through the building to the new gym,” said Sotlar, who said the new gym will be dedicated to the class of 2020. “Students will then proceed with receiving their diploma and guests can watch from the middle of the gym and then exit together. More information will be forthcoming detailing the process for this graduation ceremony. We hope all families will assist in following the instructions set forth to keep all participants safe during this event.”

Sotlar said if it becomes safe for mass gatherings later in the summer, he plans to investigate opportunities to recognize the class of 2020 and said Henderson is exploring options with senior class officers.

“Please do not allow these unfortunate circumstances of the health emergency to overshadow the great accomplishment of graduating from high school,” said Sotlar. “We know it is not fair to miss out on so much during your senior year, but please know that we hold you all in the highest esteem and are so proud of the way you have handled this huge disappointment.”

Sotlar said the class of 2020 will always be remembered for the sacrifices they made for the health and well being of all and will not be forgotten.

Sotlar said he and Henderson contacted other school districts regarding their plans for graduation and felt a lot will be conducting similar virtual ceremonies.

Distance learning plan
Winchester Trail Principal Max Lallathin reported on the school’s distance learning plan and making everything as easy as possible in partnering with parents to help keep their child’s education on track.

“Our teachers have really grabbed the bull by the horns and have really done a great job,” Lallathin said. “All of this has been possible because of the great relationship we’ve built this year. Our students are what is making this go so well, as well as the relationships they’ve built with their teachers. One of the things I feel most strong about is that we’ve had an amazing opportunity to connect with our parents that we’ve never had before.”

Lallathin said the school sends out a weekly Google form every Friday to parents to see if they need any additional social, emotional or academic support for their child.

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