(Posted June 4, 2020)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
While many area school districts have held drive-through graduations, Southeastern Local Schools is holding out for the chance to hold a traditional ceremony.
“We really hope to have a traditional, family-invited group graduation,” said P.J. Bertemes, high school and junior high principal. “We really want to do this for the kids.”
Current restrictions on mass gatherings, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), resulted in many schools going with alternative plans for graduation. Southeastern leaders moved their ceremony date from May 30 to July 11 in hopes that those restrictions will be lifted.
The district has been looking at a number of options, from a full traditional commencement outside on the football field with families present to what many districts have already done–a drive-through ceremony in which students walk across the stage one at a time with no crowd on hand. Direction from state and local officials will ultimately decide which way they go.
“We are in constant contact with our county health commissioner for changing guidelines,” Bertemes said.
The school board plans to make a decision by their June 16 meeting on how they will proceed.
In the meantime, the district has been preparing for the possibility that they will have to go with something like a drive-through format and/or virtual format.
Over the course of two days in early May, the seniors came into the school for photo and video sessions in their caps and gowns, walking across the stage, and switching their cap tassels from one side to the other.
If the board decides against the traditional ceremony, those photos and videos will be combined with recorded speeches by Bertemes and this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian, along with footage from the individual diploma distribution to create a virtual graduation keepsake.
The district already went virtual with its year-end “Strive for Excellence” awards ceremony. Usually, Bertemes includes announcement of senior scholarship recipients at that event but chose to save that information for graduation, whatever form it takes.
Of the 50 students in Southeastern’s Class of 2020, 10 are graduating with honors diploma, nine are graduating with distinction, and 15 are members of National Honor Society.
The valedictorian is Lane Highmiller, who plans to major in aerospace engineering at The Ohio State University. The salutatorian is Kole Vollrath, who plans to attend The Ohio State University to major in agricultural engineering.
The senior citizenship award is going to Highmiller and to Kyla Tuttle who plans to attend Wittenberg University. Highmiller also is receiving the senior cup award.
The class officers are: Kyla Tuttle, president; Laney Mill, vice president; Highmiller, secretary; and Alyssa Lambert, treasurer.
The class flower is the blood red osiris rose. The class colors are red and gray. The class song is “I Go Back” by Kenny Chesney. The class motto is: “We’ll keep one foot in the past as we take our next step into the future.”