Virtual ceremony and drive-through diplomas for West Jeff seniors

(Posted May 12, 2020)

By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer

West Jefferson High School seniors, not unlike graduates across the nation, will celebrate the end of their secondary school career this spring in a way no one anticipated.

The school district will broadcast a virtual graduation ceremony via its website at 7 p.m. May 22. On May 23, senior Roughriders will pick up their diplomas in person in the high school parking lot during scheduled time slots beginning at 9 a.m.

“It (the virtual broadcast) essentially models a graduation ceremony–from the speeches to a voiceover of pictures of our graduates to an actual recording of the moving of the tassel and throwing caps into the air,” said Superintendent William Mullett.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s social distancing order impacted schools’ ability to present diplomas with entire classes present.

In response, Jefferson Local Schools adopted a distribution procedure that allows all students to receive their diplomas and have pictures taken with their parents, with guidelines in place that allow for safe social distancing.

On May 23, vehicles transporting graduates (one car allowed per family) will enter a marked driveway at the high school. Each vehicle will remain in line until the student in the vehicle is notified to exit and approach a decorated table. The student’s diploma and any awards he or she earned will be in a brown bag on the table.

The student will take the diploma out of the bag and move in front of the West Jefferson High School monument for a picture taken by the yearbook advisor. The school will later send a copy of the photo to the graduate.

During a May 18 school board meeting broadcast on Facebook, a new, albeit temporary face was seated at the table—Kristine Blind, who is filling the position of interim treasurer after Jill Smith tendered her retirement resignation in April.

Smith served 15 years as Jefferson Local Schools’ treasurer. She was recently hired as the treasurer/chief financial officer for Kenton City Schools, effective July 1.

Blind is serving double duty as interim treasurer for Jefferson Local, as well as full-time treasurer for London City Schools.

Mullett said the board is in the process of interviewing agencies to conduct the search process for a new treasurer and expects a possible decision within the next two weeks.

“There’s a shortage of treasurers and superintendents, and the current situation with the pandemic does not help the process,” he said.

In regular action, board members approved a recommendation by the superintendent to authorize development and implementation of the Distance Learning Plan put in place when schools were closed in March.

In a May 5 letter to the Jefferson Local community, Mullett wrote, “I would not wish to mislead anyone regarding what school will be like next year, although I think I can say with certainty that it will be different.

“Even the ‘new normal’ is a term that lacks a proper definition. I can assure you that we are already working hard to put together various scenarios that are feasible to begin school again in some fashion.”

Mullett expects electronic learning/distance learning to remain an option or part of district offerings for the foreseeable future.

“It’s also possible that in order to reduce class sizes and keep some form of social distancing, we may have students attend on different days,” Mullett said. “It is too early to predict the direction we may receive from the health experts and the governor.”

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