A Unique End of School Year

June 1, 2020 | by lauren zent

It’s fair to say that the arrival of COVID-19 on the global scene has disrupted our lives in a whole variety of ways. However, it has also inspired us to get creative in regard to how we’re celebrating important events, finding ways to make them memorable, even as we grieve what should have been. As the 2019-’20 school year came to a rather quiet end – in comparison to years past – graduation ceremonies and parties could certainly top the list of disappointing cancellations, but many schools and families managed to find ways to celebrate anyway. 

For Central High School, the week before graduation is usually filled with various activities, but many of those had to be altered due to the pandemic.

“I believe by trying our best, and by going out of our way to show these seniors how much they have meant to us, and how important we think they are---they will know that even when our hands are tied, our hearts and love for them can and WILL never be tied down,” Lisa Fine, an art teacher who has been heavily involved in planning activities for graduates said.

Central High School hosted all the “normal” graduation and end-of-year celebrations that normally end a year - just in a different capacity. “We, as a BCS community, and I personally as an educator, just cannot imagine sending these students off without as much spectacular celebration as we are possibly allowed under these devastating circumstances. In the end, these seniors will be a stronger graduating class for what they have endured and for what they have collectively lost out on.” Fine mentioned that Central has had an online prom, live-streamed graduation ceremonies, and even had private photo sessions for spring sports and awards to make sure they were included in the yearbook. 

Central is not the only who figured out how to adapt end of the year celebrations. Billings School District 2 ultimately found a way to host a semi-“normal” graduation ceremony, with limited guests at the Metra, requiring face masks for all. They are also hosting end-of-year senior celebrations in various ways, opting for virtual and outdoor grad nights.

Parents of seniors are also embracing and adapting to COVID-19 regulations and hosting drive-by graduation parties. Others have postponed events for later in the summer, while some are still hosting events outdoors with a limited guest list.

Other grades are also figuring out a way to put closure on the year. Every year brings with it new milestones and needs some sort of closure for students and teachers alike. Eighth graders at Ben Steele Middle School were the first to complete their entire middle school career at the school, shared Alison McDowell, a teacher at the school.

Those Ben Steele 8th graders were given an English assignment while they still engaged in distance learning; one of whom took it upon herself to read it online, which sparked the idea to have any and all 8th graders present a speech on Facebook or other social platform as a sort of goodbye or salute to their year. “They could write about an event or a thing they liked about school,” McDowell explained. Many 8th graders took advantage of this end of the year closure and posted on social media outlets.

Meadowlark Elementary also sought to find ways to bring closure to this unprecedented school year. During the last week of school, teachers met with students at specified times to pass back supplies and share final farewells. For kindergarteners, the teachers planned an end of the year dance party on Zoom. Shelley Dunbar, one of three kindergartner teachers at the school, said that this dance party is always a fun activity for the class. “The students have worked hard, and we thought this would be a fun way for the students to connect with their fellow students during this ‘new norm,’” Dunbar added.

Along with the dance party, students will also see their teachers this week to pose with them in graduation caps for a kindergarten graduate photo.

In truth, this last day of school had “just another day” vibes, but even in these crazy times, it’s possible to make things memorable and to find ways to celebrate and put some final punctuation on this school year. Though these end of schoolyear celebrations are far from normal, they’re certainly memorable and deserved. 

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