Painting a new way to celebrate graduation

Standing in her hallway, local artist Hilary Frambes puts the finishing touches on the senior mural she created and donated for display at Jonathan Alder High School’s drive-through diploma pickup on May 24. Afterwards, the mural, signed by all of the graduates, will be displayed on a building on Main Street in Plain City.

(Posted May 13, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Rolling with the ever changing landscape that is life in the time of COVID-19, leaders at Jonathan Alder Local Schools went through nearly a dozen different plans for pulling off some sort of high school graduation ceremony.

“We ran all of them through the health department (Madison County Public Health) and made changes as changes came down from the state,” said Gary Chapman, superintendent. “It has not been easy. We appreciate everyone’s patience. We’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

Subject to change based on direction from county and state officials, the following is the plan as of May 13 for Jonathan Alder’s celebration of seniors.

On May 20, the community is invited to send praise, advice, congratulations and well wishes to seniors via social media using the hashtags #PioneersPressOn2020 and #Classof2020strong. This will serve as the senior clap-out.

A senior caravan is scheduled for May 23, leaving from Pastime Park at 4 p.m. Seniors and their families are invited to decorate their cars (one vehicle per graduate). The caravan will wind through Plain City. The Plain City Police Department is determining the route.

Instead of a traditional commencement ceremony with a mass gathering of students and their families, the district will hold a drive-through diploma pickup and release a recording of a virtual ceremony on May 24.

The diploma pickup will take place at the high school stadium. A stage will be set up on the track at the south end of the stadium. Each graduate signed up for a time slot between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to drive up to the stage with their immediate families (one vehicle per graduate).

Each graduate will walk across the stage while their family watches from the car. The student will receive a graduation program, rose, and diploma. Their names will be announced as they walk across the stage, and they will be recognized on the scoreboard. A professional photographer will snap photos of each student in front of the brick “A” at the stadium, after which the student will return to their family vehicle.

At 6 p.m., the district will post the virtual commencement ceremony video.

“It will be like a regular ceremony–valedictorian speeches, the Pledge of Allegiance, speeches from myself and Mr. Hayes (high school principal),” Chapman said.

Earlier in the month, the district set aside three days during which graduates came into the high school auditeria individually to record their part for the video. Wearing caps and gowns, they announced their names and plans for after high school. They also had the option to record one of the following: a favorite memory, a thank-you to someone who made a positive impact on them, advice to an underclassman, or what they will miss most about Jonathan Alder.

“The video will be a great keepsake. I think people will want this again next year,” Chapman said.

On May 11, the school board thanked various community members and businesses for their contributions to make graduation special for this year’s seniors:

  • Lucas Greiner donated a boulder to display at the high school in honor of the Class of 2020.
  • Local artist Hilary Frambes donated a senior mural to be displayed in the virtual ceremony, during the diploma pickup, and later in Plain City on the west-facing side of Tim Dawson’s building on Main Street. Holmes Lumber donated boards for the project.
  • Pioneer Pizza is offering free pizza to all seniors. Lil E’s is offering free ice cream cones to all seniors.

For more information on Jonathan Alder’s celebration of seniors, visit the district website at


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