Union graduation goes virtual

Union Public Schools has scheduled in-person graduation to take place at Union High School’s Tuttle Field on July 23. An exact time has not been determined. The district is also hosting a virtual graduation on June 15. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World file

Union Public Schools has committed to moving forward with plans to host a traditional graduation ceremony this summer — two days after announcing it would be replaced with a virtual commencement due to safety concerns.

Superintendent Kirt Hartzler announced in a letter Thursday to parents that the high school will proceed with a traditional ceremony due to the extensive feedback.

“After consulting with our student leadership, it was clearly evident that their biggest disappointment was not getting to walk across the stage to receive their diploma,” Hartzler wrote. “They also wanted to be together as a senior class and to celebrate on their own home turf — not in a venue that has no connection to Union.”

The ceremony originally was scheduled at the BOK Center in May before social distancing sanctions forced administrators to push the date to July 23. But part of why the district decided this week to cancel the event was due to a steep increase in venue costs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now the event is scheduled to take place at Union High School’s Tuttle Stadium on July 23. An exact time has not been determined.

Hartzler said the modified ceremony will be limited to the approximately 1,070 graduating seniors and will comply with state and federal restrictions for public gatherings.

“This in-person event for our seniors will be live-streamed for parents,” he said. “I’m sure this will still be a disappointment to many parents and families eager to cheer their students on, but it does satisfy our primary goal, which is to fulfill seniors’ wish to walk across the stage and celebrate with their class.”

The superintendent also warned the ceremony still could be canceled if social distancing guidelines aren’t softened before July 23.

Regardless, the district is committed to hosting a virtual graduation ceremony at 7:30 p.m. June 15. The online commencement will have many of the same features as the in-person graduation, including speeches from the valedictorian and salutatorian, as well as other Union traditions.

“It will contain all of the pomp and circumstance you would expect from a traditional graduation ceremony,” Hartzler said. “With the addition of the seniors-only commencement, it truly gives families the best of both worlds.”

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Kyle Hinchey 918-581-8451


Twitter: @kylehinchey

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