BLP Schools announces virtual graduations to air on COTV, Facebook

Bend-La Pine Schools will hold virtual graduations next month for seniors with the ceremonies airing on COTV and the district’s Facebook page.

Superintendent Shay Mikalson announced the plans in an email to families this week, saying “for more than a month, I have been thinking about how we would be able to deliver this experience amid the COVID-19 crisis unfolding around our world.”

“You deserve graduation celebrations and traditions – you earned them and I believe we can create some new memories together on your graduation day,” he said. “I hope that these virtual, televised ceremonies can give you something to look forward to, and chance to dress up and celebrate at home, and to have some fun on your graduation day.”

The virtual graduations will happen on the dates and times previously scheduled, giving students the opportunity to participate through social media chats wherever they’re watching it from.

The district also is working on care packages for each of the 1,400+ graduating seniors that will include caps, gowns, honor cords, personalized notes and more.

Mikalson wants to hear from seniors and family members over the next couple of days about what they’d like to see in the virtual ceremonies.

Mikalson’s full letter and more information is below:

Your graduation day is right around the corner. A moment to shine and be honored as you receive your well-deserved high school diploma in front of family and friends beaming with pride.

For more than a month, I have been thinking about how we would be able to deliver this experience amid the COVID-19 crisis unfolding around our world. With the Governor’s Stay Home order in place, gatherings limited to no more than 25 people and your health and safety at the top of mind, I have made the decision to honor our tradition of graduation ceremonies in a different way this year.

Our graduations will take place on the date and time you have long been planning for – but in a new venue. Our ceremonies will not be live, rather they will be virtual and available for you to participate in using social media chats from home or wherever you may be.

Graduation Plans
All high school’s graduation ceremony will be filmed and streamed live locally on COTV channel 11 (611 HD) on the original graduation date:

  • Bend Senior High School – June 6 at 3 p.m.
  • Bend Tech Academy at Marshall High School – June 8 at 7 p.m.
  • La Pine High School – June 5 at 7 p.m.
  • Mountain View High School – June 6 at 10 a.m.
  • Summit High School – June 4 at 7 p.m.

Families have many ways to see the ceremony, which will be aired on COTV and streamed live on social media. We plan to include school traditions, speakers and to highlight every student graduate. While these ceremonies will be similar, each will include the personality and traditions from each of our high schools.

Class of 2020, I am so proud of your accomplishments, your courage and your creativity. It pains me to know how your plans have been upended by this global pandemic. It’s OK for us to mourn what cannot be, but we hope we can also take this opportunity to join together and celebrate.

You deserve graduation celebrations and traditions – you earned them and I believe we can create some new memories together on your graduation day. I hope that these virtual, televised ceremonies can give you something to look forward to, and chance to dress up and celebrate at home, and to have some fun on your graduation day. 

Graduation Ceremony Survey
We are on a tight timeline to pull these graduation ‘shows’ together. We want to hear from students and families about what elements of graduation are their favorites and what new elements could be considered. We hope to include some of the ideas shared, if time allows. Please take a moment to share your thoughts. This survey will close at 5 p.m. Monday, April 27.

Care Packages
In the coming weeks, we plan to distribute senior care packages to every member of the Class of 2020. Care packages will include caps, gowns, honor cords, diploma covers and personalized notes, among other items. We hope you will don your cap and gown, take photos and share them with loved ones. Send your favorite cap and gown photos and/or short videos to us via email and they may appear in your graduation ceremony:

Finally, I want to say that despite the hardships and challenges many of us are encountering at this time, I remain optimistic for the future. That’s because of you and the energy, passion and spirit you bring to this world. Because of you, I know that our future remains bright. 

Thank you, Class of 2020, for inspiring all of us to do our best every day.

Best,

Shay Mikalson, Superintendent

The following are a few questions that we have received regarding graduation events and answers.

Q: Could we postpone graduation ceremonies?
We considered postponing ceremonies to later this summer or the fall, but ultimately decided against either option. Moving the date to later this summer could mean some students wouldn’t be able to participate and there is no guarantee that the situation will have improved enough for us to host large gatherings. If we planned to host graduations in August and ultimately had to cancel at that point, we would have missed our opportunity to honor the Class of 2020 entirely. Postponing until fall posed similar problems, with the likelihood of missing out on even more graduates, as many will have left the area.

Q: Why make a plan now when the situation may be better in June?
Planning a graduation ceremony typically takes four to five months for our high schools. While we are all hoping to see an improved situation and guidance lifted in June, we cannot wait until then to plan a graduation. We also believe we owe it to the Class of 2020 and to their families to provide an answer and a plan forward now. We hope that you will support our high school students and staff by joining us to make the very best of this ever changing situation we are all living in.

Q: Will any small gatherings be allowed at the school – for photos, performances or other activities on graduation day?
Not likely. At this time Gov. Kate Brown’s current executive order restricts all nonessential gatherings and no coordinated groups of 10 or more through the end of the school year. Additionally, she has closed school buildings and facilities to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Q: Am I required to attend the virtual graduation ceremony? Do I have to RSVP? 
There is no RSVP needed. We encourage you to invite your guests, near and far, to watch your virtual ceremony as we want to celebrate your achievements with all of your friends, family and loved ones.

Q: How do I invite my friends and family to join the virtual graduation? Is there a limit?  
Since we are hosting a virtual graduation, our capacity is unlimited. We encourage you to invite family and friends to view your virtual ceremony by tuning in to COTV channel 11 (611 HD) on local television, watch a live stream at cotv11.com, or join us virtually by watching our Facebook live simulcast at Bend-La Pine Schools’ Facebook page

Q: Will graduate names be announced in alphabetical order?  
Yes. We are working on creating name recitation videos, using your graduation photo on file, organized by last name. 

Q: Will I be able to participate in 2021 graduation ceremony?  
Yes. We encourage all members of the Class of 2020 to walk at our June, 2021 graduation ceremonies, if they would like. More information will be provided at a later date.

Q; When will I get my official graduation certificate?
Your official graduation certificate will be distributed after graduations, in June. Your graduation regalia – cap, gown, tassel, etc. – will be distributed in the days to come, as it is received and sorted by your high school.

Q: What if I am unable to watch the virtual graduation?  
The 2020 virtual ceremonies will be posted to the district’s Vimeo account and on your school websites within a week of graduation, or sooner. You and your loved ones may watch at your convenience.  

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