Graduation ceremony plans remain uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic, but seniors at some Wilkes County high schools are picking up their caps and gowns amid great fanfare.
Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd said during Monday night’s school board meeting that plans for marking graduation haven’t been finalized, “but we can say that we’re going to do something special to honor them.”
At West Wilkes High School on April 30, seniors were lauded as they received their caps and gowns. These were ordered well before anyone dreamed the last 2½ months of in-person classes would be cancelled due to a virus.
The event was arranged by school staff and the Millers Creek community.
As they arrived on campus, seniors names were announced over the football field’s public address system and they were greeted with honking horns, music and cheering spectators. Seniors then accepted their ceremonial supplies from staff through rolled-down windows as they drove through the school’s regular car line.
West Wilkes Principal Amanda Pruitt called it a bittersweet day.
“While this is not ideal, we hope that our seniors know just how much we miss them and care for them. The outpouring of love and support of this school community never ceases to amaze me as a school administrator. We love the Class of 2020 and today was a great reminder of what it means to be a Blackhawk.”
Pruitt said school staff created banners, signs and decorated balloons to honor the seniors. They also made a graduation-themed picture frame for taking photos while keeping student safety in mind.
The Millers Creek Fire Department was there saluting seniors with flashing lights on fire and rescue vehicles. The United States and West Wilkes flags were displayed on the end of the long boom of the department’s ladder truck.
Students followed standard coronavirus protocol by never leaving their cars and maintaining at least six feet of social distancing. Staggering the students’ arrival alphabetically by last name over the course of three hours ensured there was never a backlog of cars waiting in line.
East Wilkes High
Pickup of East Wilkes High senior graduation supplies took place at 10 a.m. Monday at the school. Cap and gown photos of seniors were taken on a staggered schedule following car line pickup.
Suggested photo appointments were according to last names: A-F, 10-11:30 a.m.; G-P, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; and Q-Z, 1-2 p.m. If the suggested time is problematic, arrive when convenient. No make-up day is scheduled.
Boys were encouraged to wear a white dress shirt with dark tie. Girls should wear a white shirt if it’s visible above the gown collar.
Staff stressed that if a student wakes up with a fever or has been exposed to someone who has contracted COVID-19, stay at home and don’t participate Monday.
North Wilkes High
Senior caps and gowns were distributed by Principal David Johnson via car line at North Wilkes High in Hays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 1. Arrivals were staggered in alphabetical order.
Students remained in their vehicles and were handed supplies through their car windows.
Wilkes Central High
Wilkes Central High senior caps and gowns and yearbooks will be distributed via car line on Thursday. Students arrived according to last names of seniors: A-C, 10-11 a.m.; D-J, 11 a.m.-noon; K-P, noon-1 p.m.; and R-Z, 1-2 p.m.
To class of 2020
Byrd addressed the class of 2020 during the school board meeting, saying, “We’ve all had our seniors on our minds and hate the opportunities they lost due to this pandemic.”
He said the seniors will never forget the impact of the coronavirus on their high school careers, but it won’t define the class of 2020. Byrd said what they’re learning about adversity will take them far in life.
With 18 student days left in the 2019-20 school year, Byrd said he wanted to say congratulations to the 650-plus seniors “and let them know they’ve made their entire county very proud.”