By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
High school graduations will look a lot different for the class of 2020.
But Bend-La Pine Schools’ decision to celebrate seniors “virtually” on the days they were set to walk across the stage has some students upset.
“I think it’s stupid,” said Summit High School senior Christian Kleinsmith. “It kind of annoys me, frankly.”
“I definitely felt unheard,” fellow Summit High School senior Gianna Dispenza said.
Like many others, Dispenza and Kleinsmith were looking forward to all of the events that come with being a senior.
“I feel like I didn’t get closure,” said Dispenza. “I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends or my school teachers who really made me who I am.”
“I was definitely looking forward to having a diploma in hand and having your friends and family there,” said Kleinsmith. “It’s what every senior’s looking forward to.”
Instead, Bend-La Pine schools made the decision to have high school graduations take place virtually, airing on COTV and Facebook on the dates they were originally to be held for their schools.
“The key components will still be there, so you’ll be hearing from a staff speaker potentially, you’ll be hearing from a student speaker, maybe it’s the Valedictorian,” said Executive Director of High Schools Katie Legace. “We’re also going to include photos of the seniors as their names are called.”
In a statement to parents and students, Superintendent Shay Mikalson explained that the district decided against postponing the ceremonies until the summer or fall because some students wouldn’t be able to participate, and there’s no guarantee the situation will have improved.
“We don’t know how much longer we’re going to be in this COVID-19 situation,” said Legace. “We could be in a situation where we reschedule the entire ceremony, we’d have to cancel it again.”
Legace added that this year’s seniors have also been invited back to participate in the 2021 graduation.
After hearing the district’s plans, Dispenza started a petition to stop the virtual graduations – it already has more than 1,000 signatures.
“This is a big deal for a lot of people, a lot of people don’t have another graduation coming up,” said Dispenza. “There’s so many more people out there that want more and know that they can do more and still be in the state guidelines.”
“We feel like we’re making the best plan that we can to honor our seniors the best we can,” Legace said.
Bend-La Pine Schools will be sending out care packages to seniors in the coming weeks which will include caps, gowns, honor cords, and diploma covers among other items.