With the coronavirus pandemic causing many uncertainties about the end of the school year, Kodiak High School seniors will get a small taste of normalcy with an in-person graduation ceremony this weekend.
Forecasts for rainy weather have prompted high school principal Dr. Mel LeVan to make a last-minute decision to move the graduation ceremony to the high school’s gymnasium on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Original plans involved parents parking their cars in the school parking lot while students walked across an outdoor stage in front of the high school, but with the wet weather, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s loosening of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, administrators moved the graduation indoors.
“The feel of a graduation where the parents are able to sit there offers a few moments of normality in this otherwise new normal,” LeVan said.
This year, the graduating class will be separated into 19-person groups for the ceremony, following guidelines from earlier state health mandates allowing gatherings of 20 or fewer people.
Each group will be accompanied by an administrator and will graduate in front of their families and friends. Each student is allowed to invite six people to the ceremony. The students will wait their turn to receive their diplomas in the school’s classrooms.
LeVan said that following each wave of students, the gym’s plastic seating will be cleaned and administrators will be “maintaining scrutiny on social distancing.”
For those who will not attend in person, the ceremony can be viewed online, with a link to the graduation on the Kodiak Island Borough School District website.
To plan the ceremony, high school administrators surveyed parents and students about their ideal graduation ceremony.
“Parents emphasized the desire for their son and daughter to walk across the stage, as a core component of their ideal graduation,” LeVan said, adding that the school district was given guidance on how to have an in-person ceremony by the state.
With the previous cancellations of large gatherings because of coronavirus restrictions, and the uncertainty about whether students would be able to end the school year with their friends, the Kodiak community came together to help honor the graduating class with yard signs.
Some parents bought signs with the name of their graduating senior son or daughter to place in front of their homes, while other signs were sponsored by other parents, community members and businesses.
Tracy Chandler organized the effort to print and distribute yard signs after seeing it done in other states. She sent a list of names to Kodiak Print Master — noting the importance of hiring a local company — and requested help from the community for parents who could not pay for a sign.
“We did a call out to the community because there seemed to be a lot of Facebook posts about sponsoring high school seniors. People wanted to help,” Chandler said.
Within three days the community raised $1,000, and with the help of community members, businesses and service groups like the Lions Club, enough funds were raised to pay for every sign.