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Nontraditional graduations set in Union County

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Imbler Fourth of July parade

Imbler High School is planning to celebrate graduation this year on July 4, with the seniors riding in the town’s annual parade following a traditional commencement exercise in the IHS gym. Union County’s other school districts have organized nontraditional spring ceremonies, in keeping with the current COVID-19 restrictions.

UNION COUNTY — Football fields, a towering outdoor movie screen and the Fourth of July.

All are elements of some of the upcoming graduation ceremonies for Union County school districts. Their commencement exercises promise to be exciting but anything but traditional due to the COVID-19 crisis. They will have dramatically different twists due to social distancing standards imposed by the state prohibiting large gatherings.

Commencement exercises among the school districts will kick off May 30 at Cove High School’s football field. Vehicles, each with a CHS graduate and their family, will be driven along the gridiron where diplomas will be presented at 11 a.m. Once all 17 graduates have received their diplomas, they will walk through Cove High School, many for the first time since all schools were shut down in Oregon in mid-March.

Members of the CHS Class of 2020 then will join their families and be driven through Cove in a parade. Cove Fire Department personnel and officers from the Union County Sheriff’s Office will provide assistance with traffic control, said Cove School District Superintendent Earl Pettit.

The superintendent said it is unfortunate that Cove’s senior class has not been able to complete its spring quarter by taking classes on campus. Public school students have been participating in distance learning since the closures. On the bright side, Pettit said, the COVID-19 shutdown benefited at least one student. He explained that the school district’s credit requirements for graduation, which are higher than the state standard, were temporarily lowered this spring due to the shutdown. Pettit said the step allowed a student to graduate who might not have otherwise.Cove High School’s graduation May 30 will be one of two public schools in Union County, for La Grande High School will also have its commencement that day. LHS graduation will begin at 10 a.m. at the main entrance of the school, where graduates in vehicles with their families will be awarded their diplomas. Other commencement activities will take place at the La Grande Drive-in theater.

Union County graduation ceremonies will resume June 1 with Elgin High School’s commencement. Activities will begin at 6 p.m. when a parade through town will be conducted for its class of 2020. The graduation ceremony will start at 7 p.m. at the EHS football field, where seniors will be in vehicles with their families. Graduates will come out one at a time to get their diplomas.

EHS’s Class of 2020 completed plans for their commencement Thursday. Elgin School District Superintendent Dianne Greif said the students are disappointed they will not have traditional graduation but they are in good spirits.

“They were saying that when they get together 10 years from now they will have memories that nobody else (at Elgin High School) has,” Greif said.

Powder Valley and Union high schools will conduct their graduation ceremonies June 6.

Union’s ceremony starts at 10 a.m. in the UHS gym, where seniors will be awarded their diplomas. Only the graduate and their family and school district officials will be present when each diploma is awarded because of social distancing rules. All commencement walks in the gym will be streamed live on the Union School District’s website.

At the conclusion of the awarding of the diplomas, graduates will be driven through Union with their families while participating in a wave parade.

UHS commencement activities will continue the evening of June 6 at the La Grande Drive-in. A senior slide show will be shown there plus pre-recorded talks by UHS’s valedictorian and salutatorian.

“We are excited to honor our graduates in a new way in this crazy world we live in,” said Union School District Superintendent Carter Wells.

Powder Valley High School’s graduation activities will start the evening of June 5 when all seniors and their families will gather at the La Grande Drive-in. At the theater site a pre- recorded video of student graduation speeches will be among what is shown.

The following day, Powder Valley’s graduation ceremony starts at 1 p.m. On June 6, graduates will go to their school’s gym one at a time to receive their diplomas with their families and then leave, allowing the next senior to come in. After commencement, the graduates will go to PVHS’s football field and toss their caps into the air. A graduation parade through town will follow. The seniors will ride on a semi trailer so they can be seen by everyone, said North Powder School District Superintendent Lance Dixon.

Imbler High School’s graduation is set to start at 10 a.m. July 4. Imbler School District Superintendent Angie Lakey- Campbell hopes that by July 4 the COVID-19 social distancing rules will no longer be in place, allowing for a traditional commencement exercise in the IHS gym. Following the commencement, graduates will be saluted while riding in Imbler’s Fourth of July parade, an event Lakey-Campbell also said she hopes can be conducted then. Should COVID-19 still be a serious issue July 4, Lakey-Campbell said IHS will conduct a nontraditional graduation ceremony that will conform to social distancing standards.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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