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Honoring the Class of 2020: what Utah schools are doing

Photo: Mary Richards, KSL NewsRadio

This month, the Class of 2020 should be picking up caps and gowns, taking pictures and signing yearbooks. They should be promising to stay in touch as they set off for work, college or the unknown.

Instead, their schools are working on new, different ways to celebrate graduating seniors stuck at home during a pandemic.

Honoring the Class of 2020

On a recent sunny morning in the parking lot at East High School, cars lined up, decorated with balloons and posters. The signs hailed the leopards graduating in 2020. Drivers were heading out to make deliveries.

“We are trying to just give love to all our classmates and we want them to know we care about them and we miss them,”  said East High senior class president Steven Mayombe.

“It’s kind of bittersweet, it’s nice, but at the same time, like I wish we didn’t have to do it, if that’s fair. It’s hard because I understand, but at the same time I just wish, if that makes sense,” said spirit master Sam Hurtado, who was in the car with Mayombe. Both were wearing masks.

 “We had our hearts broken about all the opportunities for our seniors that have been missed this year,” said East High PTA president Angela McKeller. She  made sure each car had a blanket, yard sign, and bouquet of sunflowers to give to each of the 408 seniors in this year’s class.

“The flowers were donated East high mom, who owns the Orchid Dynasty flower shop, and she donated 408 bouquets of arrangements, said McKeller as she waved at a honking car exiting the parking lot on its errand.

How other schools are honoring grads

And other schools are trying to individually recognize each senior.

Olympus High put up huge banners around the high school of each of the 550 seniors in the Class of 2020. The banners run along the fence on school’s campus near 40th south and 2300 East.

Murray High School did a “light the night” event at their stadium, with a drive-through parade.

But graduation plans are all over the map. Many high schools plan on a virtual graduation or presentation this spring. Some have a Class of 2020 drive in or walk up service.  

The Davis School District’s ten high schools are planning events that may take 2-3 days to accommodate everyone safely.

“Our whole effort in all that is still going to be to keep people socially distanced,” said Davis District spokesman Chris Williams.

More than a video

Layton parent Tiffany Smith is just glad there will be something more than a video.

“I think having the family be a part of it is a big thing,” she told KSL TV.

The Granite School District will have pre-planned ceremonies with limited attendance. Only parents or legal guardians will be allowed to accompany their graduate and film and photograph their child’s diploma walk.  No more than five or six seniors will likely be on campus at a time.

“We’re very pleased that we were able to offer an appropriate way to allow students to walk, despite the restrictions that are in place,” said Granite spokesman Ben Horsley. .

Future celebrating still a possibility

Many high schools also plan to have a traditional ceremony later. They hope it will be safe to do so in late summer.

“We think it’s important to celebrate the students who have done a lot of work to graduate this year,” said Canyons District Spokesman Jeff Haney. But the district couldn’t say yet when those ceremonies will be.

Parent Shauna Havey in Roy hopes the Weber School District can fully recognize seniors like her son Mason.

 “We feel like we should be doing the most for our kids, instead of the least,” said parent Shauna Havey. “If something can be done, we want to ensure that it’s done.”

 “It sucks that we don’t have the whole last part of our senior year and on top of that we don’t get a real graduation,” Mason said.