High School Principal Jeff Johnson told the Park Rapids School Board on Monday about a tentative plan to have a drive-in graduation ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 24.
“It’s kind of a moving target right now,” said Johnson, describing the plan to have graduates back their vehicles into place around the high school bus loop.
“We can fit about 120 cars all the way around the outside of the bus loop, all facing in,” he said. “As long as we keep people in their cars, the way the governor talks right now, we would be OK.”
Chairs will be set up around the inside of the bus loop, he said, at least six feet apart. During the processional, graduates will walk to their chairs. There will be loudspeakers on the grassy area, and the ceremony will be live streamed and broadcast live on the radio. Art teacher Mike Hartung will be taking pictures.
Johnson said school administrators and board members can spread around the grassy area, if they want to be present.
“Then we go through kind of a traditional graduation,” he said, including a welcome, speakers including six valedictorians, and presentation of the diploma covers. “We call them down one at a time. When one’s halfway back, we’ll call the next one down, so we maintain our social distancing. It will take a little bit longer to get through all of this.”
After presenting the class of 2020, he said, “We will play the recessional. Students will walk from their chairs back to their cars. And then we will have the community celebrate us with a parade” following the traditional July 4 parade route down Fair Ave., across to Main Ave. and back.
Johnson discussed a proposal to have parents drop the seniors off at Century School, where their own cars can be waiting with parade decorations, so that the parents don’t have to ride in the parade.
Johnson said he and Superintendent Lance Bagstad “have done a bunch of work with this. We think this is going to be OK, as far as social distancing. We all know how that could change, and then we could be onto another plan.”
Bagstad added, “We just need to be flexible and keep our options open. I know there’s more guidance coming out every day. But the reality is, we need to do what’s best, what we think meets the guidelines and still provides a real good opportunity, with the situation we have, for our kids to have a good experience.”
Johnson said he spoke with the seniors and they said what they wanted was “some type of walk, to have a conclusion.”
Noting that the ceremony will be held “rain or shine,” Johnson added that Citizens National Bank will provide umbrellas for the seniors’ chairs. He anticipated having to secure a parade route with the city and suggested that the police and fire departments and the Chamber of Commerce may also get involved.
School board member Steph Carlson said seniors’ parents are trying to organize gift bags in lieu of Senior Slam.
Board member Gary Gauldin told Johnson, “I certainly endorse what you’re trying to do. It’s as good a plan as I think you could come up with, given the circumstances.”