Following Latest Declaration from Governor, Canby High Pivots to Virtual ‘Graduation Experience’

When Governor Kate Brown initially extended school closures through the end of the academic year, Canby High School tentatively rescheduled graduation ceremonies from June 5 to July 17, in the hopes that the stay-home orders might be relaxed by then.

That was appearing increasingly unlikely in recent days, and Principal Greg Dinse told the Canby Now Podcast on Monday that the administration team had already begun planning for a virtual ceremony. (Any further postponement after July 17 was not considered practical due to students leaving for college or other pursuits.)

Sad expectation became reality on Thursday, when Governor Brown announced she would not be lifting her restrictions on large gatherings until at least October.

Later that day, Principal Dinse sent an email to seniors and families confirming that this year’s graduation ceremony would be unlike anything they would have imagined before Covid-19 became a household word.

“We’re all disappointed with how our school year and your careers at Canby High School have ended,” he said. “The Covid-19 closure has been disruptive to our personal lives and those of our community as a whole. While the staff at CHS has worked hard to celebrate our seniors and make your transition as smooth as possible, missing out on the final ‘rites of passage’ can never be replicated or replaced.”

Some of the ways the admin team has sought to celebrate seniors during this unprecedented trimester have included lighting Cougar Stadium every Friday night in their honor, surprising every senior with a special sign in their front yard and, this week, a larger-than-life “yard card” display in front of the high school’s main entrance — set up throughout the day for social distancing selfies.

Seniors Luke Tamimi, Ben Martinusen, Kyler Karn and Grant Miller pose in front of a yard display set up in honor of the Class of 2020 Thursday. Photo courtesy Nichole Karn.

“We’ve decided to move forward with a virtual graduation ceremony,” the principal said. “Unlike some of the hastily organized events that you may have seen, we are planning a ‘graduation experience’ that will culminate in a professionally produced video available to all.”

This “experience” will include seniors attending filming sessions with up to four family members, while participating in other “celebratory activities” the admin team is coordinating based on feedback from the Class of 2020 about what parts of graduation festivities they most wanted to preserve.

If gathering constraints are lifted earlier than expected, the school will plan for a post-graduation event at a later date.

“Our vision is to host a Class of 2020 reception at CHS where we will recognize our seniors and families,” Dinse said. “While it will not have the formality of our traditional graduation ceremony, it will provide us the opportunity to collectively celebrate our seniors.”

While not the desired outcome, he admitted, school officials believe “a high-quality virtual graduation ceremony and possible later reception are appropriate and worthy alternatives under the circumstances.”

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