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Schools offer creative alternatives to celebrate festivals, traditions of graduation –

by Terri Hogan

Senior Staff Writer

May 8 was supposed to be the last day of classes for seniors at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. Because COVID-19 forced the closing of school buildings, seniors walked out of school for the last time on March 13, forgoing all of the senior festivities and traditions they had looked forward to attending.

Good Counsel, like most other schools, has tried to come up with creative ways to celebrate its seniors.

“It’s pretty heartbreaking for them and has been a difficult time.” said Cheryl Plainte, chief marketing officer.

“We’re pulling out all the stops that we can to honor and celebrate the Class of 2020 during these unprecedented times,” she said.

Over 100 faculty, staff and school mascot Falcon Vic visited the seniors at their homes two weeks ago, delivering packages that contained a yard sign, popcorn, Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship rings for the football players, and more.

A second care package was delivered to each senior last week, containing their cap and gown, yearbook, T-shirt, diploma cover and other items, all in a Good Counsel laundry bag.

Prom was supposed to be held April 25. It was postponed until May 3, and then canceled. It is tentatively rescheduled for June, but that will depend on state mandates. And it might not take place on The Spirit of Washington, as scheduled.

In honor of the last day of classes, the school had planned to host a virtual prom on May 8.

“This is not to replace their prom, but to make their day a little brighter and celebrate what would have been their last day of school,” Plainte said.

Good Counsel spotlighted each of the 297 seniors on social media and spring athletes have been individually recognized on Twitter.

The traditional senior-mother Mass will take place on May 17 as scheduled, although it will be held virtually, as will the Senior Awards Ceremony on May 20.

Graduation was scheduled for May 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Instead, Plainte said, the school is considering a drive-by parade that day, when parents would drive their children, in cap and gown, around the school’s campus while faculty, staff and coaches salute them.

Graduation is now planned for Aug. 1 on campus.

Parents are also trying to make this time special for the seniors.
Good Counsel parent Maggie Givens and others organized a door-decorating package, containing a custom banner and other decorations, which they offered to all parents.

“We wanted to have the doors all decorated the same because we think this is a time that we should be united,” she said. “It was very heartwarming.”

Givens’ daughter, Ellie, a Good Counsel senior, said one of the hardest parts of the past several weeks is missing her friends. She has known most of them since she was in kindergarten at St. Peter’s Catholic School.

She said she appreciates the things the school are doing for them, but in a way, it makes it harder. “It’s really nice, but it also reminds us on all the things we are missing out on.”

She is planning to attend the University of South Carolina in the fall.

“They just announced that classes are going to start on time, so that is a highlight during this time of darkness,” she said.

At Washington Christian Academy, school leaders are also trying to make the best of an unfortunate situation for the 23 seniors.

Head of School James Armistead commended the seniors for being “fully engaged in their academics,” as they completed their academic lessons virtually.

The prom was canceled, as was the senior trip to Virginia Beach.

The school’s staff delivered yard signs, cap and gown and other items to each senior.

“We really tried to make that a big deal,” he said.

Some sort of a graduation is planned for on campus June 5, whether it be held outdoors with social distancing or strictly virtually, and some type of celebration party will be planned for later in the summer.

“These young people are very heartening,” Armistead said. “I sense a lot of sadness, but on the other hand they are wise and understanding of the times. That is appropriate; the sadness and optimism for their future goes along with looking to the Lord’s provision with faith — God will have a place for you and will guide you along the way.”

Sophia Yoo, a senior at Washington Christian Academy, said these months have been difficult “because there were so many things we were looking forward to, like our senior trip and graduation.”

She added, “It is disappointing in a way, but the school has done a lot to rectify that and to celebrate us as seniors.”

“It is helpful to know they feel for us and want to celebrate us, even if it is different that we were expecting,” Yoo said. “I think our class is disappointed, but since quarantine has been going on for so long, I think we are coming to terms with it.”

She has been accepted to the University of Virginia, but plans to take a gap year.

“In a way, it makes me feel better that I might not be missing out on another school year,” she said.

Sandy Spring Friends School could not be reached by The Greater Olney News press time.

According to a letter on its website, the last scheduled day of classes for seniors will be May 22. Graduation will take place on June 6, as originally scheduled.

The Senior Celebrations Committee is considering ways in which the main event(s) of graduation day can take place in a way that reconciles state mandates regarding large gatherings and non-essential travel with the desire of the school community to celebrate the graduates, according to the letter.

The committee is also advising the school on in-person, on-campus celebratory events that could take place after social distancing requirements have been lifted, according to the school’s website.


    Information on activities at Montgomery County Public Schools was not available at press time.

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