Delta County School District

Two former Paonia High School students post ‘Open Letter to DCSD’  on the Decolonizing Delta County School District Facebook page. 

Delta County School District graduates will celebrate their commencement from high school with drive-thru celebrations.

“We have decided to have vehicle-based commencements in each of our communities for graduation,” said Caryn Gibson, DCSD superintendent. “The majority of our parents and students did not want to move the original dates and some of our seniors are leaving the area in June or July so we are keeping our graduations on the original dates.”

The school district worked with the Delta County Health Department on the details of graduation. Although the proposed in-person graduations that included the graduate and two guests was not approved, the district began planning for vehicle-based ceremonies in each community.

Hotchkiss High School seniors will celebrate graduating from high school in front of a limited audience on Tuesday, May 19.

The school announced Friday afternoon via Facebook that the commencement ceremony will only include graduates, a limited number of family members and HHS staff members.

Understanding that friends and the community members would like to attend to show support for the graduates, HHS requests the community finds other ways to show its support.

Graduates and parents will receive additional details about the ceremony soon.

Cedaredge High School will hold a drive-thru commencement for graduates on May 18. The commencement ceremony begins at 10 a.m. and will tentatively end by 12:30 p.m.

Students are asked to arrive at the CMS parking lot with up to five family members between 9:30 and 9:45 a.m. A CHS staff member will help organize the vehicles into alphabetical order as well as checking to make sure there are no more than five family members with the graduate.

In groups of three, graduates will drive in the vehicles through the bus loop. One vehicle at a time, the graduate and their family may exit the vehicle. Graduates are asked to stand on the X with their family behind them before approaching the stage to receive their diplomas without contact. Families can move to the designated picture location at that time. While wearing a mask is not required, CHS encourages guests to wear a mask to protect themselves and others. There will also be a professional photographer taking photos.

After receiving the diploma, graduates are asked to collect their senior yard signs and the balloons. Once everyone has returned to the vehicle, the next graduate and family will exit. A CHS staff member will guide families to an assigned parking spot to watch the commencement.

Once every graduate has received their diploma, the class will turn its tassels and release the balloons as a replacement for throwing their caps. This will take place inside the vehicles.

To ensure every graduate can experience every part of graduation, CHS will provide graduates with a video of commencement, the senior slideshow, valedictorian speeches, keynote speech, music performances and parent dedication songs. The video is anticipated to be complete around June 1.

Delta High School graduates will celebrate May 17 at 4 p.m.

In an announcement to graduates and families Derek Carlson, DHS principal, said graduates along with five guests will arrive at DHS and enter the southeast gate in the east parking lot to line up. DHS and DCSD staff will direct vehicles through the bus lane to approach the stage set up in front of the school. The graduate will exit the vehicle and their names will be announced as they head up the steps on the right side of the stage. After walking across the stage to receive their diplomas, the graduates will turn their tassels and exit the stage. A photo opportunity will be available at that time with their guests. During the ceremony local radio station 103.7 The River will be airing pre-recorded audio of a performance of the national anthem and the salutatorian, valedictorian and commencement address. A professional production company will video the entire ceremony with each graduate’s announcement and walk across the stage. Pre-recorded video presentations of the national anthem performance, salutatorian, valedictorian and commencement speeches will be edited into the video, and it will then be uploaded to the DHS website and Facebook page to be available for graduates, their guests, and all unable to attend.

Paonia High School graduates can expect to see many traditional elements in their commencement ceremony on May 18, including the presentation of the “P” blanket, the Rockwell Cup (an award celebrated for over 100 years) student addresses and the traditional graduation march “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Graduation will take place on a stage in the parking lot of PHS. Graduates will be allowed to exit their vehicle once their name is called. Graduates will proceed to the stage to receive their diploma.

Following the ceremony, a parade has been arranged with the Town of Paonia where graduates will be escorted by the Paonia Fire/Police Department through downtown for well-wishers and congratulatories for the graduates.

Randal Palmer, PHS principal encouraged the graduates to decorate their vehicles for the parade.

“We encourage our graduates to decorate their vehicle around the theme from this year ‘Row the Boat,’” he said. “You have certainly picked up your oar and weathered this storm, not allowing your past to detour your quest for the future.”

As DCSD seniors prepare to celebrate their graduations, Gibson is excited to witness this milestone.

“We are excited about our new plans for celebrating and honoring our seniors,” Gibson said. “We want to assure parents and students we are doing everything we can to recognize the special milestone of graduation.”

Within the Department of Education’s guidance for graduation ceremonies released on May 4, graduates will not be allowed to throw graduation caps, exchange materials like flowers and gifts, which presents an increased risk for spreading COVID-19.

Graduation information

May 17 @ 4 p.m. Delta High School

May 18 @ 10 a.m. Cedaredge High School

May 18 @ 10 a.m. Paonia High School

May 19 @ 10 a.m. Hotchkiss High School

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