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Several local school districts reschedule graduation for this summer, plan virtual ceremonies as backup

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Kirt Hartzler, Union Public Schools

Kirt Hartzler, superintendent Union Public Schools.

Numerous school districts throughout the Tulsa metro have pushed back their graduation ceremonies in the hope that the COVID-19 threat subsides by summer.

Seniors at Union High School will walk across the stage at the BOK Center on July 23 if all city and state social distancing sanctions are lifted in time, the district announced Friday.

Tulsans have been ordered to shelter in place until at least April 30, while a safer-at-home order is in effect across Oklahoma due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Given this year’s unprecedented disruption, I can think of no class more deserving of an exceptional graduation experience than Union’s Class of 2020,” Superintendent Kirt Hartzler said in a news release. “Our fondest wish is to celebrate our graduating seniors like they have never been celebrated before, and for their families to give them an appropriate send-off in person.”

Union also is preparing alternative plans for a virtual graduation ceremony if measures for large public gatherings have not been lifted by May 30. The virtual ceremony would be live-streamed on the evening of July 15.

Regardless of the venue, Hartzler said he assures seniors and their families that the conclusion of their high school careers will be celebrated in style.

“A virtual graduation is not our preference,” he said. “We just need to have an alternate plan in place should it become necessary.”

Students will pick up their caps, gowns and accessories April 21 and 22 from noon to 4 p.m. on the north side of Union High School. More information will be forthcoming about a rehearsal in preparation for graduation, according to the news release.

Administrators have not determined the status of Union’s annual Graduation Celebration, a district-sanctioned after-party. Updates will be available at unionps.org/commencement.

Meanwhile, Jenks Public Schools intends to host a virtual graduation ceremony May 18 and a traditional ceremony June 26 at the Mabee Center. Students will be able to participate in both events if the public gathering restrictions expire.

Owasso Public Schools also has reserved two potential graduation dates at the Mabee Center on June 23 and July 21. The district’s graduation ceremony originally was scheduled for May 19.

Administrators began communicating with families about the changes this week to ensure they have enough time to prepare for the new times.

District spokesman Jordan Korphage said Owasso High School Principal Mark Officer has endured a “tremendous amount of work” to provide students with a traditional graduation experience, if at all possible.

“We wanted our students and parents to have those dates now for planning purposes in the event that we are able to convene for a traditional ceremony,” Korphage said. “If it becomes clear that this is not possible, we will honor the senior class with an alternative ceremony.”

Bixby High School has tentatively rescheduled its graduation ceremony for June 29 at the Mabee Center and its junior and senior prom for June 26.

Bixby Superintendent Rob Miller confirmed the district will look at other options if social distancing requirements still are in place, including a virtual graduation event.

Last week, Broken Arrow Public Schools announced its graduation ceremony was rescheduled for June 30 at the BOK Center. The event is contingent on whether all pandemic-related sanctions are lifted from the state and city by June 15.

“I know our seniors are heartbroken over the recent events that have impacted their last few months at Broken Arrow High School,” Superintendent Janet Dunlop said in a news release. “Please know we are doing everything in our power to end their senior year in a way that honors their hard work. Although we can’t promise that bans will be lifted by then, we are hopeful that we will get to see our graduates walk across the graduation stage.”

New dates have not been decided at Tulsa Public Schools, but spokeswoman Lauren Partain said the district is committed to providing a “positive commencement experience” along with other end-of-the-year senior activities.

TPS has created a working group of students, teachers, parents and school leaders to provide feedback for its numerous graduation ceremonies. Each school still will have the flexibility to include their own traditions, Partain said.

“We are a unique district in planning more than 10 graduation ceremonies and are working with members of our school communities to think through what the end of the year will look like and make it special for the Class of 2020 and their families,” she said. “We know that our seniors have great ideas, and we want them to help us plan for a strong end of the year within the constraints of the current climate and restrictions.”


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Kyle Hinchey

918-581-8451

kyle.hinchey

@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @kylehinchey

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