From June 2-6, this Warren Consolidated Schools billboard congratulating the class of 2020 from Warren Mott, Cousino, Sterling Heights and Community high schools could be spotted in Roseville off the 11 Mile Road service drive.

From June 2-6, this Warren Consolidated Schools billboard congratulating the class of 2020 from Warren Mott, Cousino, Sterling Heights and Community high schools could be spotted in Roseville off the 11 Mile Road service drive.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Districts make the most of high school graduations amid pandemic

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published June 5, 2020

 A group of students congratulate the Lincoln High School Class of 2020 during the “Light up the Field” event May 29.

A group of students congratulate the Lincoln High School Class of 2020 during the “Light up the Field” event May 29.

Photo provided by Piper Bognar

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WARREN/CENTER LINE/STERLING HEIGHTS — Annual high school graduation ceremonies with educators, family and friends cheering on the seniors have been a standard in local communities for decades.

Unfortunately, the “Pomp and Circumstance” tradition of commencement ceremonies, along with proms and award banquets, have been canceled for the class of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Seniors walking across a stage to receive their diplomas is an event that won’t happen this year with the usual flair. District officials, however, have planned alternative ways to recognize this year’s graduates for their accomplishments.

Anyone driving eastbound on either the Interstate 696 freeway or the north side of the 11 Mile Road service drive from June 2-6 might have noticed the Warren Consolidated Schools billboard. It contained a special message congratulating the Class of 2020 from Warren Mott, Cousino and Sterling Heights high schools and the district’s alternative Community High School.

At press time, the district also had plans to honor its graduates with different activities June 6. Sterling Heights High School planned to have a “Honk Out.” In their caps and gowns, seniors could drive through the parking lot with their families, have their photos taken and receive their diplomas. Similar events were scheduled for Warren Mott and Cousino.

Van Dyke Public Schools kicked off graduation season with “Light up the Field” the evening of May 29. During the event, the Lincoln High School Class of 2020 and their families gathered on the high school’s athletic track in their cars.

The vehicles lined the track, and as families drove around it, each student’s name was announced. WJR Radio also broadcasted the students’ names and played the valedictorian’s speech on the air. Some students even wore their caps and gowns.

“It was so cool. It was wonderful,” VDPS Superintendent Piper Bognar said. “Everyone listened to the names being read, and the class song was played. It was a very unique ceremony.”

There also are plans later in the month for the Lincoln graduates to have their photos taken with district administrators and officially receive their diplomas, yearbooks and honor certificates. The district had 132 graduates, plus 13 students from its alternative Success Academy program, with more to graduate this summer.

Bognar said she believes the students were “quite sad about” how the school year wrapped up, but “they’ve been able to keep in contact via Facetime and Zoom.”

Fitzgerald Public Schools officials found a way to honor the Fitzgerald High School graduates this year. FHS Principal Amanda Clor said an outdoor ceremony is planned for June 27 on the high school campus on a makeshift stage.

“They’re bummed because they missed out on a traditional ceremony,” Clor said. “I just want the day to be special for the graduates. There really is no barrier too large to overcome. I hope the students learned that anything is possible.”

Because Clor heard from so many parents who wanted to see their children receive their diplomas on a stage, staff will hold an outdoor ceremony described as “drive-through style.” Students and their families will arrive by vehicle at a scheduled time. The graduate will sit in the front side passenger seat and each car will pull up to the stage area. The student will then walk across the stage and receive his or her diploma cover while the graduate’s name is read.

The stage will be 10 feet away from the curb so families can snap photos while remaining in their cars. Students are encouraged to wear their caps and gowns. Because of capacity limitations, the event is only open to graduates and their families. The school’s TV production class will record the ceremony, which will include speeches from staff. There are 195 high school graduates, plus about 16 from the district’s virtual program.

Over at Center Line High School, a virtual commencement ceremony will be offered on various livestream platforms June 11. Each student was to receive an access code to view it from home. The ceremony is to include photos of students in their caps and gowns and the ceremonial hat toss.

Students who met the graduation requirements can pick up their diplomas in a drive-through format June 15 at school. Time slots will be provided, and students will receive their diplomas in the front circle of the school so proper social distancing guidelines can be followed. Students are encouraged to sit on the passenger side of the vehicle. Late last month, banners of the graduates waved in the air along Van Dyke Avenue between 11 Mile Road and Stephens.

Warren Woods Tower High School staff have scheduled modified commencement ceremonies for June 13-14 at the school. Each student signed up for a time slot and can bring up to nine family members.

Upon entry to the school, the graduate and their guests will have their temperature taken and must wear a mask. They will then head over to the auditorium, where the senior will walk across the stage to receive his or her diploma.

Each senior also will walk down the hall to the school’s commons area to put their handprint on the senior wall while using a latex glove, have more pictures taken and then be guided out of the building. The time slots are spaced every 5 minutes to help ensure social distancing.

Enterprise High School will have a drive-through ceremony from 5 to 6:30 p.m. June 11. Students will drive through the lot in one car with their family, pick up their diploma and get a photo taken.

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