POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE—COVID STYLE

Don Gosney
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There are several critical components included in the transition from a high school senior to the real world:  Prom, Graduation. Grad Night (and for some, the pre-graduation parties).A.jpg

COVID-19 has turned our world upside down.  High school seniors can either let the social distancing and sheltering in place define the end to their public school years or they can adjust, adapt and overcome.

Virtual proms are a tough concept to embrace and grad night is almost certainly a none starter.

JFK-1.jpgBut virtual graduations are being planned all across the country—and even here in West County.

When asked on Wednesday night, no one from the West Contra Costa Unified School District could provide any details about what their virtual graduations might look like.  But, like most of what is happening since the shelter in place order was decreed, people are making it up as they go along.

JFK-8.jpgIn recent days, the WCCUSD schools have hosted cap and gown distributions for their seniors.

On Thursday, JFK in Richmond hosted a distribution.  Celebratory signs were posted, teachers and staff were on hand with noise makers and a healthy exuberance and there was something of a ceremony except that instead of receiving an empty diploma holder, the students were handed their caps and gowns.

JFK-2.jpgNo one at JFK or the WCCUSD could provide a number for how many seniors are scheduled to graduate.  According to Felicia Phillips, the JFK Principal, “there will be approximately 200 graduates in the Kennedy Class of 2020, and 20 percent of whom will graduate with honors.”

Ms. Phillips went on to say “…the details of the WCCUSD virtual graduations are still being worked out, so unfortunately there isn't much to share right now. I expect that in the next few days, we will have more clarity about format, schedule, etc. Although we will not have a traditional in-person graduation ceremony, we will be working with a professional video production company to produce a memorable event that will recognize, honor and celebrate the end of our seniors' high school experience. There will be speeches, students' names will be called while their images are displayed on screen in their cap and gown, and there will be high-quality, social media-friendly content that we hope will be inspiring and entertaining.”

JFK-3.jpgAbout 40% of the seniors did not pre-pay the $40 fee to purchase their caps and gowns so they needed to get in another line to make their purchase directly from the Josten representative.

The process wasn’t quite like watching a NASCAR pit crew who all seemed to have an assigned task and everyone worked together as if they were all an integral part of a well oiled machine.

JFK-5.jpgJust as outside your favorite store on the weekend, the line to get into the event was lengthy and the line did not seem to move.

Shortly after entering the student parking lot, one staffer stopped them to discuss something (too far away to be heard); shortly after the cars turned the corner to head towards the cap and gown station, they were stopped to hand over a sweatshirt (or be sold one); the car moved forward another car length and, if the gear had been prepaid, were handed a packet with a white gown for the ladies and a red gown for the gents; the car moved another car length and every senior was handed a t-shirt.

JFK-6.jpgPerhaps if the District had set up one more station to hand out diploma holders (as Berkeley HS did), the cost of getting these to the graduates might not be such a burden on the cash strapped District (6,000 seniors multiplied by maybe $7 per holder in shipping?  Simple arithmetic suggests this would have saved the District a LOT of money they can ill afford to spend [the cost of one Pre-K student aid]).

As the cars departed the lot, they passed through a gauntlet of screaming teachers waving pom-poms and a variety of noisemakers.

And now everyone will wait to see what the WCCUSD version of a virtual graduation looks like.  Stay tuned.

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