‘It’s about our seniors and our families — and honoring them’

Mapleton’s virtual graduation to include in-person ceremonies

May 23, 2020 — The Mapleton School District will be going virtual with its graduation ceremony this year, but is also looking at ways to have a smaller, in-person ceremony just for seniors and close family.

“Between surveying our seniors, contacting our seniors and talking to other school districts about what they’re doing, we have decided to put together a virtual graduation,” Mapleton Superintendent Jodi O’Mara said. “We wanted every senior to be able to watch each other graduate, along with family members that don’t live in our community and state.”

The virtual ceremony will consist of the usual pomp and circumstance, including speeches by the valedictorian and salutatorian and the traditional handing out of diplomas.

Starting next week, seniors will be coming to school grounds in one-hour appointments to film individual graduation ceremonies.

“They get to choose who they bring in, and whoever they bring in has a role,” O’Mara said. “A role may be a candle lighter. The role might be to hand the graduates their diploma.”

Speeches from a guest speaker and students will also be filmed, and then edited together to create a full ceremony for the seniors. The photography and editing is being done by Deadwood, Ore., photographer Kate Harnedey. As Mapleton regularly has small graduating classes, this shouldn’t take too much time.

“We’ve seen some really great virtual graduation ceremonies,” O’Mara said. “I think the biggest piece behind this is, with the restrictions put on how many people can be in a place at a time, especially for graduation and whether it’s outside or inside, by having our virtual graduation ceremony, anybody can watch it. It can be a time where the seniors get together with family and they all sit down and watch the video together at the same time. It’s a keepsake that they have forever, put together with some thought and some care.”

The virtual ceremony will be released online at 2 p.m., Saturday, June 6 – the original date planned for graduation. A link to the ceremony will be posted on the school website, and updates will be sent out to the students via the district’s Remind app.

“And then we’re also exploring other options,” O’Mara said. “We’re exploring whether or not students want to have a separate diploma ceremony where, following the guidelines set forth by the governor, we can bring a small group of seniors and their families in on the football field to just call their name and get their diploma, as well as a photo opportunity for families.”

Other ideas are floating around, including a car parade in the high school parking lot.

“It changes as we hear more about what other districts are doing to celebrate. Ideas pop up,” O’Mara said. “We unfortunately can’t do them all, and we don’t have to have two full blown graduate ceremonies.”

Ultimately, O’Mara said the ideas will come from the seniors. As each one comes in to film their part of the virtual ceremony, the district will ask them how they would like to celebrate.

“Maybe not all of our seniors want a separate ceremony, and that’s fine too,” O’Mara said. “Ultimately, it’s about our seniors and our families and honoring them. Our seniors are missing out on a lot right now. We’re trying to celebrate them as best we can.”