Miamisburg High School plans a graduation ceremony Saturday at its football stadium, a variation of a drive-through option public health officials “strongly encourage” due to COVID-19.
The school district has scheduled a “hybrid” ceremony at Holland Field, which will follow social distancing and other safety guidelines while allowing greater family freedom and access to the estimated 380 graduates, Miamisburg Superintendent David Vail said.
After Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine banned mass gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, many local school districts are holding drive-through or virtual graduations - as recommended by public health officials - or canceling events.
Wayne High School is planning indoor ceremonies at specific times over three days this weekend. Seniors signing up will be given time slots and allowed up to six family members to attend.
Miamisburg’s graduation will be “a drive-through, then walk-up and drive-out” ceremony, in which “we’ll still continue a lot of the traditions and procedures of the past graduations,” Vail said.
Several districts have worked with local health departments “to develop creative ways to hold structured in-person ceremonies and create memorable experiences for participants that also follow social distancing best practices and comply with the mass gatherings limit of 10 people,” according to a statement issued jointly by the Ohio departments of health and education.
Miamisburg graduates registering by today will have times reserved to take part in the 10:30 a.m. event and form vehicle lines in the parking lot, according to the district’s website.
By appointment, graduates and up to six family members can into walk into the stadium.
Then “graduates will begin forming a line to walk onto the field” and “begin forming a line on the field while the families walk on the side of the field….nobody will be allowed in the bleachers,” according to the district.
When grads’ names are called, they will walk to a table, pick up their diploma cover, have a photograph taken and then exit the stadium with their family, according to the district.
Vail said Miamisburg officials didn’t consult with health officials, but thoroughly studied state guidelines.
Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County “is not approving or disapproving any specific school graduation ceremony plans,” according to a document issued earlier this month.
But outdoor graduations such as Miamisburg’s are preferable to ones indoors, said Dan Suffoletto, that agency’s public information supervisor.
Gloves, masks and other precautions will be part of the event as necessary, and indoor access – including to restrooms – will not be permitted, Vail said.
A rain date is scheduled for Sunday.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Miamisburg’s graduation had been set for last weekend at the Nutter Center.
After talking about holding alternative events in June or July, “we realized that doing any of those may exclude some of our kids and our people because they wouldn’t be available,” Vail said.
“You’ve got kids leaving the state because they’re going into the workforce, some going in the military,” he added. “So we wanted to do it sooner rather than later. We looked at our restrictions and what we could accommodate.”
Much of the program – including valedictorian and salutatorian speeches - has been pre-recorded, Vail said.
He said the district will have staff and possibly Miamisburg police monitoring the parking lot – which can only be entered from Belvo Road – to help maintain order.
“It will be like Kings Island, where you’re snaking back and forth in the lines,” Vail said. “Family members will get out of their cars one at a time…and as they’re done, they’ll get in their car and leave.”
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