Graduations include tweaks, but at least they’re happening this year

Greenon High School held their 2021 Commencement Ceremony Saturday. Over a 100 graduates, sitting six feet apart and all wearing masks, participated in the ceremony at the school's statium. Greenon is the fist school in the area to hold a 2021 commencement ceremony. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Greenon High School held their 2021 Commencement Ceremony Saturday. Over a 100 graduates, sitting six feet apart and all wearing masks, participated in the ceremony at the school's statium. Greenon is the fist school in the area to hold a 2021 commencement ceremony. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The Dayton area will see a flood of 50-plus high school graduation ceremonies in the next three weeks. And while they still won’t be back to normal due to COVID-related attendance limits and masks, 2021 will be an improvement over 2020′s many online or canceled ceremonies.

The vast majority of local graduations run from Saturday through June 5. Greenon’s ceremony was early (May 7) due to construction starting on a new K-12 campus. The seven Dayton Public School events are late (June 25-28) because the district halted classes for weeks in November and December.

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Bellbrook, Lebanon and the Dayton Regional STEM School kick off the heart of graduation season on Saturday. Bellbrook High School’s ceremony is an example of the adjustments schools are making.

Bellbrook’s graduations have been at Trent Arena in Kettering for years, but BHS Principal David Hann said due to social distancing rules, graduates would have been limited to two guests each this year at Trent. So they’re holding the ceremony outdoors at Bellbrook’s stadium instead.

Hann said they started at four guest tickets per graduate for the outdoor event, but they also had a Google form where families could get on a waiting list for more, once the school saw how many tickets were claimed.

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“Nobody’s happy about (the limit), but that’s the way it is,” Hann said. “We’re trying to have the same traditions and a similar ceremony as we would at Trent, but on the field.”

Oakwood residents waive to high school graduates during the 2020 senior parade. Staff / Marshall  Gorby
Oakwood residents waive to high school graduates during the 2020 senior parade. Staff / Marshall Gorby

That meant lining up a stage and a sound system, and figuring out how best to get electricity to the middle of the field. Since masks will be required, Hann said he ordered purple and white masks for all students that will match their graduation gowns.

Centerville, Waynesville, Troy and Miamisburg are among several other high schools that will be holding their graduation ceremonies outdoors, and as Hann said, “hoping for a beautiful day.”

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Most have already announced backup dates and times in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. In Troy’s case, they would move next door from their stadium to Hobart Arena in case of bad weather.

Lebanon, Kettering, Huber Heights and Springboro are among the larger high schools that are going back to indoor ceremonies at venues like the Nutter Center or UD Arena.

Beavercreek is going back to the Nutter Center, but in order to allow for social distancing, they had each graduate choose one of their two ceremonies — May 24 and May 27. Like many high schools, Beavercreek will live-stream the events.

“The task of creating a safe plan for both events has been a challenge,” Beavercreek officials said in a letter to families. “While it would be ideal to have the entire class of 2021 graduating on the same evening, the COVID precautions and guidelines do not permit (it).”

Even with attendance limits, schools are happier about these graduations than they were in 2020. Last year at Stebbins High School, only one family was allowed in the auditorium at a time, with parents hurrying down the aisle to get their 20 seconds of video of their child getting their diploma alone, then going out the door.

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At Newton High School, families sat in their cars for a parking lot ceremony, with graduates only walking up to get their diplomas. Dayton Public did drive-through events, while Centerville, Lebanon and others held online-only ceremonies.

But one piece of last year’s ceremonies is coming back, as a variety of schools big and small are holding senior parades, in light of attendance limits at their ceremonies.

In Preble County, Tri-County North graduates will participate in a parade of cars through Lewisburg. A week before its May 22 graduation, Centerville’s senior parade will go from the school parking lot along a community route guided by Centerville police. Franklin schools will have their seniors set up in Franklin Community Park May 18, with the public driving through to offer well wishes to graduates.

While the focus is on the ceremonies, students also had an interesting academic route to earn their diplomas, with sudden, forced remote learning last spring, and a pile of variables this year. But Bellbrook’s Hann said most BHS students are on track.

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“The ones who are at risk of not graduating are at risk because they’ve checked out and are not doing anything,” He said. “And that’s an every-year issue. It’s compounded just a little bit with the distance learning and (less personal contact).”

Multiple schools said they had more high schoolers than normal fail classes last spring during remote learning. As a result, schools boosted their credit recovery programs to help seniors catch up this year. And state legislators approved flexibility where students could use their classroom grade in a course in place of a state exam score.

“Because of the combination of adjusted guidelines from the state and strong work by our seniors and their counselors in credit recovery, there are not many students in the senior class (who are not) in line to graduate,” Kettering assistant superintendent Dan Von Handorf said.

GRADUATION DATES

May 7: Greenon

May 15: Bellbrook, Lebanon, Dayton Regional STEM School

May 17: Chaminade Julienne

May 18: Trotwood-Madison

May 20: Kettering, Stebbins, Cedarville

May 21: Carroll, Fenwick, Franklin, Greeneview

May 22: Alter, Centerville, Waynesville

May 23: Northmont, Newton

May 24: Vandalia-Butler, Dixie, Beavercreek #1

May 25: Oakwood

May 26: Xenia

May 27: West Carrollton, Yellow Springs, Twin Valley, Legacy Christian, Horizon Science Academy, Beavercreek #2

May 28: Fairborn, Piqua, Miami East, Milton-Union, Valley View, National Trail, Miami Valley School

May 29: Springboro, Troy, Troy Christian, Brookville, Bethel, Bradford

May 30: Wayne HS, Tippecanoe, Covington, Eaton, Dayton Christian, Spring Valley Academy, Lehman Catholic

June 1: DECA

June 4: Miamisburg, Tecumseh, Preble Shawnee

June 5: Northridge, Carlisle

June 25: Meadowdale, Belmont

June 26: Stivers, Thurgood Marshall, Dunbar, Ponitz

June 28: Mound Street Academy

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