Wahpeton announces final graduation plans

A traditional ceremony might be out of the question, but Wahpeton Public Schools is moving forward with its plans for the Class of 2020's graduation.

Seventy-four seniors are expected to graduate from Wahpeton High School this Memorial Day weekend.

Wahpeton Public Schools, scheduled to hold an outdoor ceremony, released its expected final plan for the Class of 2020’s graduation. The event will be held at the Chahinkapa Park football field, Wahpeton.

“Our graduation date will be Saturday, May 23 at 1 p.m.,” Wahpeton High School Principal Ned Clooten said. “In case of bad weather, we will move to 1 p.m. Sunday, May 24. If we are required to move again, the ceremony will be at 1 p.m. Monday, May 25.”

Wahpeton Public Schools reminds students, parents and families that graduation arrangements may changed based on statewide procedure decided by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. The district is following guidelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All attendees will be required to wear a mask at all times. Graduates, administration and school board members will only wear masks if they choose to,” Clooten said.

Each graduate will be given six tickets to distribute to attendees. Only attendees that have a ticket will be allowed to attend graduation.

“The ceremony will be livestreamed and recorded for family members not able to attend,” Clooten said.

Social distancing protocol will be followed by both attendees and the graduates themselves.

“Graduates will be seated 7-8 feet apart and will remain 6 feet apart at all times, including walking,” Wahpeton Public Schools stated.

Each group of six attendees will be 15 feet away from any other group.

“There will not be seating provided for attendees, only the graduates,” the district continues. “If there are attendees who feel like they need to distance themselves further, there will be plenty of room around the outside of the venue.”

Unlike previous ceremonies, Wahpeton’s 2020 graduation will not include performances by the high school band. Audio tracks will be used for the processional and recessional. The high school choir will sing but its members will stay 6 feet apart at all times.

“There will be a professional photographer present taking pictures of the graduates that will be available for purchase,” Clooten said.

Wahpeton High School is not printing programs to be handed out at graduation. Instead, a digital copy of the program will be emailed to all parents and printed copy will be placed inside the diploma of each graduate.

The district is following additional guidelines based on North Dakota Smart Restart recommendations.

“We will implement one-way foot traffic for people entering and leaving to implement social distancing,” Clooten said. “We will be providing portable restrooms and hand washing stations to prevent congestion in bathrooms.”

Anyone who does not live together is advised to avoid physical contact, including handshakes and hugs. Photos taken before and after the ceremony are discouraged unless all individuals in the photo are at least 6 feet apart. Exceptions can be made for family photos in which all people in the photo live in the same household.

“People who are sick should not attend the graduation ceremony. This includes students, their families and school staff members,” Wahpeton Public Schools stated.

Members of vulnerable population groups, including people over age 65, anyone with serious underlying health conditions, or those with weakened immune systems, are asked not to attend graduation.

During the ceremony, precautions will be taken for youth safety.

“Graduates will walk across the stage and collect their diploma from a table rather than have it landed to them,” Clooten said. “Hand sanitizer will be used at both ends of the stage, for entering and leaving.”

The North Dakota Department of Health recommends that graduates and their families use a guest book or sign in sheet for any parties this season. Should there be a COVID-19 outbreak, records will help with contact tracing.

“We are working hard to balance safety with giving out seniors the recognition that they deserve in these unprecedented times. Thank you for understanding,” Clooten said.

Look to Daily News, in print and online, for coverage of Twin Towns Area graduations.

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