Hutchinson High School 2020 graduates will have a commencement ceremony this year, but it won’t look like anything the school has done before.
In a letter to the class of 2020 and its families, HHS Principal Robert Danneker noted the resiliency he had seen among students.
“At the start of the 2019-20 school year, few would have guessed that a global pandemic disrupting lives, education, employment and rites of passage was speeding toward us,” he said. “The class of 2020 has not been defined by the challenges they have faced. Instead, these challenges have revealed the strong yet flexible character embodied by this year’s graduating class.”
Graduating students this year have missed final seasons of athletics and activities, capstone theater performances, prom and the memories that come with the final days with friends at high school.
“They’ve lost out so much in the second half of the year,” Superintendent Daron VanderHeiden said at a recent School Board meeting.
So when state leaders announced guidelines earlier this month that prohibited in-person gatherings for graduation ceremonies, it was one more blow nobody wanted. That’s why District 423 has devised a plan to get students as close as they can to a live graduation ceremony while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Come 6:30 p.m., Friday, June 5, the HHS west parking lot will be packed for a “drive-in” commencement ceremony that meets state guidelines and will have households attending with their graduates in vehicles. Graduates with split households will be able to secure a second parking space. With vehicles parked beside each other, windows must remain closed to meet state guidelines. In order to maintain sight lines, attendants are asked to use their vehicle with the lowest profile.
“Hutchinson High School is committed to honoring the Class of 2020 as best we can while also recognizing the seriousness of the public health crisis we face,” Danneker wrote.
The ceremony will use a mix of live and prerecorded elements. Hutchinson Community Video Network will simulcast the ceremony to its YouTube channel, which will allow people at home or in their vehicles to watch with digital devices. Wi-Fi will be provided to the west parking lot. Spectators will not be permitted at the event due to state guidelines.
Ceremonial speakers will be live. Musical performances will be prerecorded. Since state guidelines will not allow students to cross the stage, Hutchinson High School will produce a slideshow with images of all graduates, which will be accompanied by the live recitation of the names of the students.
Before the ceremony, caps, gowns, diploma covers and yearbooks for the class of 2020 will be distributed 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, May 21, in the north Hutchinson High School parking lot. Each advisory will have a unique window for distribution.
From Tuesday, May 26, through Friday, May 29, members of the Class of 2020 will be able to schedule commencement photos in the Hutchinson High School commons. A professional photographer and backdrop will be provided. Commencement practice is 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 5. Only members of the Class of 2020 may attend and should arrive in their own vehicles at the west parking lot.