A team of dedicated educators and parents have saved the day and created a plan for the Sisters High School class of 2020 to have a commencement ceremony after all, despite the limitations imposed by COVID-19.

The one-of-a-kind ceremony will take place at the Sisters Rodeo grounds at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 12.

Due to health restrictions, the event will not be open to the general public and will be a drive-in style event. Graduates will have two parking places allotted for themselves and guests in specific locations in front of a stage to be constructed by the Sisters Rodeo Association. A large screen will be used in order for the senior slideshow as well as pre-recorded student music and speeches to be viewed. Audio will be streamed via FM radio signal at 104.9. 

For those unable to attend in person, plans for a live feed are in the works so people can watch from home on their phones or computers. 

Preliminary plans do include making a way for students to “cross the stage” to be recognized individually, according to Principal Joe Hosang.

“Essentially, we will organize very small groups of graduates to line up next to the stage, maintain a 10-foot distance from each other, wear an Outlaw mask, cross the stage, receive a diploma, have a picture taken and return to the family car,” he said in a letter sent out to students and families. 

Following the ceremony those in the vehicle with their graduates will be escorted back to Sisters by the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire Department for a parade through town, ending at the high school, according to Hosang. 

In acknowledging that many details still need to be worked out and that things can change so rapidly regarding the virus, Hosang added, “Our motto during distance learning is ‘In Grace, Flexibility and Patience,’ so things may adjust a bit and all details are subject to social distancing guidelines changing between now and June 12.”

Hosang wanted to especially thank Mel Petterson, Lynne Fendall and Jillian Frankl for their help in making the ceremony a reality. “These three have put in many hours working to problem-solve this event in order to make it happen.”

Seniors are required to attend a practice for the event on Thursday, June 11 at 9 a.m. to help ensure things will run smoothly the following day. In following state guidelines, students will be asked to drive individually to the rodeo grounds where they will be directed for parking. Students will stay in their vehicles during the practice unless instructed otherwise. 

“We really can’t allow students to ride with other students and still be adhering to the guidelines,” said Hosang. “It’s a bit of a hassle, but we want to do this right.”

Any students with issues for transportation will be aided by contacting Jillian Frankl via email at jillian.frankl@ssd6.org.

On Friday, May 29, seniors are required to come to Sisters High School between 11 a.m. and noon to turn in school materials, including Chromebooks, as well as to pick up their graduation caps and gowns. 

“We are working to make this time part of the senior’s celebration, so we hope that all seniors can make it during the time frame,” said Hosang. “We will have them pull into the bus circle out front to take care of this process. 

Graduate Resource Organization (GRO) Scholarship winners, who will have been notified prior to May 29, will pick up packets confirming their awards along with instructions for other tasks related to the scholarships, according to counselor Rick Kroytz. 

“The packets include information about how to make sure their scholarship money gets to the proper school as well as instructions for how to thank the donors, which we feel is very important,” he said. 

Hosang is grateful to be able to honor the class of 2020 after all the interruption of their senior year.

“As the principal of Sisters High School I want to extend a huge thank you to all our community partners, parents, teachers, and staff who have contributed to ensure the Class of 2020 is honored and has a graduation ceremony that will most certainly be memorable,” he said. “On a daily basis the list of people to thank is growing.”