Viewpoint: Traditional Graduation vs. Virtual Graduation

By Ryelee Stone                      

Opinions Editor

Black and gold decorations have filled Horn Field at the Red Lion Area Senior High School every year for the highly awaited graduation ceremony that celebrates the seniors. Unfortunately this year, the class of 2020 is not able to have this special moment due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Students that attend the Red Lion Area School District were informed on March 13 that the next two weeks they would not attend school because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Governor Tom Wolfe later announced that all Pennsylvania schools will be closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.

Governor Wolf has stated that the coronavirus outbreak has “made it impossible” to hold a traditional graduation ceremony. Secretary of Health, Rachel Levine, says that students may not even be able to attend school in person next year in the fall, much less have a graduation ceremony for the class of 2020.

To reopen the state, Wolf has a color system on when certain regions are allowed to start resuming to normal life. York County had been in the “red” phase and on the stay-at-home order until June 4.

While some students were excited about their “coronacation,” others realized all the events and opportunities they would be missing out on. Seniors were hit the hardest because they were not able to have their last spring sports season, a senior class trip, prom, or the rest of their high school experience.

With the coronavirus stealing many special memories from all students, but especially seniors, a traditional graduation ceremony should not be taken away as well.

Currently, a graduation committee is planning to have a virtual graduation for the class of 2020 on Friday, June 5, at 6:45 PM. “Our hope is that the students can dress in their caps and gowns, watch the ceremony from the safety of their homes, to hear the different speeches and the reading of the names of all of our graduates, and celebrate with loved ones,” said head principal Mark Shue in an email that was sent to students and parents.

Although it is not a traditional graduation ceremony, it is an attempt to honor the students and their last high school year coming to an end. However, this was still upsetting for many people because these students put years of work into their educational careers and will now not be able to walk a stage and be handed their diploma in front of a cheering crowd.

Although it is understandable that it will not be safe to hold a graduation ceremony at this time, the school’s administration should be doing more or looking at other options to make this special tradition be the best that it can be. Students should be able to receive their diploma wearing their caps and gowns in front of those who love, care, and support them throughout their educational journey.

For some students, they do not have any significant memories of winning their first game or meet on a high school sporting team. Those same teenagers may not have participated in any extracurricular activities or had the best high school experience, so their main positive memory of their success would be a graduation ceremony. 

Instead of canceling the ceremony early, they should have postponed it until August instead. Some parents and community members felt that they made this call too early on and could have waited to see all of the possible choices. Postponing this event would have shown that the administration fully cares about the voices of the students, parents, and the community.

Another option for this dilemma is that students could be handed their diplomas while wearing their caps and gowns by the principal in front of their families one by one. This process would be very time consuming but would show that the administration values traditional, meaningful graduations and the opinions of everyone. 

This one-on-one graduation substitution could span over a series of days late in the summer to ensure that the health of everyone is being prioritized. This option would allow students to be in proper graduation attire and let family members capture a special moment in their seniors’ life. Even though it would not be a traditional graduation ceremony, this would be the closest choice that still holds some of the aspects and feelings of one. 

By attempting to have a virtual graduation, it almost seems as if everyone is trying to conclude these challenging circumstances. Everyone wants to start over and have life return to “normal,” so certain events are not being carried out to their full capacity at a later date. Sports banquets, birthday parties, and more have all been cut short because people want to forget about this time in history.

Substitutions to everyday activities and special events during the Covid-19 outbreak are starting to seem like something cool and memories that can still be appreciated, simply because it is something different to what we are used to experiencing. Although virtual conversations and other substitutions to life are better than nothing, it should not be seen as equivalent to traditional events that hold sentimental value to everyone across the nation. 

Because so many exciting events and special occasions have been already taken away from students, the graduation committee should be trying even harder to fulfill the needs and wants of everyone when regarding a graduation ceremony. These seniors deserve closure from high school experience, especially since they were cheated of their last school year.

While this pandemic has been extremely challenging for all, it is not an excuse to fail to give the class of 2020 a meaningful graduation that they fully deserve. For some students, this was a moment that they were dreaming of their whole lives because it signals their success and a new chapter of their life alongside those they grew up with.

Even though it is not safe at this time to hold a traditional graduation ceremony, more options should be considered so the seniors have a true memory of them officially graduating after years of hard work and dedication. However, it is important for all of us to keep in mind that safety comes first and that these questionable times have impacted everyone in various shapes and forms.

The views and opinions expressed at are those of the authors and do no necessarily reflect the official policy of The Leonid or of Red Lion Area School District. Any content provided by our bloggers is of their own opinion and is not meant to malign or cause harm to any individual or entity.

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