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Clarkston Community School District

Honoring the Class of 2020

Honoring the Class of 2020

Dear Class of 2020 and Senior Parents,

On this day, your last day of senior year and what would have been your Senior Walk, we would like to first acknowledge the sense of loss that many of you are feeling. No one expected the year to end this way, and like you, we wish we were together at Clarkston High School today. Like you, we are feeling the absence of the traditional senior celebrations all of us hoped you would have this week.

In an ordinary year, end-of-year senior events run like clockwork. We are all aware of our roles and responsibilities, and while it is a tremendously busy time, we're able to operate individually and collectively as a team with a high degree of predictability. Things have been a little more difficult to navigate in this very extraordinary year. We want to thank those of you who have shown us grace, flexibility, and support as we work together to reimagine what these end-of-year senior events will look like in the weeks ahead.

The District has spent considerable time listening to your feedback and exploring alternative plans. We understand that many of you have different ideas about how to go about graduation. We agree with the prevalent opinion that a traditional graduation ceremony is the preferred way to honor our students' academic achievements; however, state and local guidelines regarding social distancing prevent the District from allowing mass gatherings at this time. As you are aware, neither state or federal officials are able to provide a clear timeline for when large gatherings will again be safe.

We realize that our alternative plans will not meet everyone's wishes and expectations, nor can we plan for every possible future scenario. Our goal is to provide the best possible commencement celebration for our students with the appropriate guidance from local and state officials. Ultimately, the plan for graduation and all subsequent details related to it, are the responsibilities of the school and district administration. We hope that you can embrace these plans and make it a joyful time to remember. Here are our current plans:

Cap and Gown Distribution

Caps, gowns, honor cords, yearbooks, and special gifts will be hand-delivered by CHS staff to homes from June 3 - June 5. (This replaces the on-campus distribution that was outlined in a previous communication.) Our staff will contact each family on his or her delivery route to set up a time and explain the process, which includes students gathering and returning any books, uniforms, technology loans, or other school materials. It would be helpful for you to start organizing these items now.

Virtual Commencement Ceremony

As we have shared previously, the District will broadcast a virtual graduation ceremony for Clarkston High School on Saturday, June 13 at 7pm on the Clarkston Community Schools YouTube channel. Our Senior Board of students has been working tirelessly on this presentation, and we are confident that they, along with our media production team, administration, and communications department, will deliver a memorable virtual ceremony. The video will follow the format of a traditional graduation with a welcome from Board President Kelli Horst, and words from our senior speaker and administration. Students' names will be read, just as they would be in a traditional ceremony, and each student's picture will appear. Our Senior Board will share special reflections, photos, and memories; we will hear traditional graduation music by our CHS band and choir; honors will be highlighted to celebrate academic achievements. There will even be an invitation to participate in the traditional turning of the tassel.

CHS Stage Ceremony with Professional Photos

Families expressed a strong desire for students to cross a covered stage and receive the recognition that they have earned, so we have added an opportunity for graduates to participate in an in-person stage ceremony at Clarkston High School on Friday, June 12 between 9am and 7pm. We are constructing a stage near the stadium and will be inviting families to report to the CHS event lot at a designated time, where they will be greeted by cheering District staff members. Campus will be blanketed in blue and gold with congratulatory signage. When signaled, the student will exit the vehicle, approach the stage, be introduced, and receive his or her diploma cover and a class flower from our administration and Board. For the safety of all involved, family members must remain in the vehicle. All families will be given printed graduation programs.

We have hired professional photographers who will capture candid photos of these moments, and take a posed photo of the graduate on a green screen, which will allow families to choose their preferred background. Each student will receive a code for a free photo download, as well as have the opportunity to purchase additional downloads or prints. A video crew will be on-hand to capture the excitement and we will create a second graduation video with highlights from the Class of 2020's commencement weekend. This recap video will be shared in late June. Diplomas will be mailed or delivered in late June with personalized letters that feature heartfelt notes from our teachers to each graduate - a Clarkston tradition.

Cap Decoration Challenge

Unlike any previous senior class, the Clarkston Class of 2020 will have the opportunity to showcase their individuality and creativity by adorning their graduation caps in ways that are unique to them. Students, post a photo of your decorated cap on social media with the hashtag #Clarkston2020 and tag Clarkston Community Schools.

Clarkston Commencement Cruise

We are also moving forward with our plans for a car procession for families throughout the afternoon on Saturday, June 13. The optional "Clarkston Commencement Cruise" is a fun opportunity for families to drive through town in decorated vehicles to cheers and fanfare throughout our community (including a congratulatory banner over Main Street). This is not intended to be an invitation for parents or others to congregate or line the streets as we normally would for a parade. The idea is that businesses and residents along the route would be invited to decorate their windows, post signs, and clap and wave from their front porches. The District will be taking photos and video as the Class of 2020 cruises around town, which will be incorporated into our commencement weekend recap video. We are meeting with leadership from Independence Township, the Village, and The Oakland County Sheriff's Office this week to ensure this can be accomplished in a safe way with respect to traffic flow and social distancing guidelines. We will be sharing the cruise route and time frame in a future communication.

The CHS stadium will be illuminated on the evenings of June 12 and June 13 in honor of the Class of 2020.

Once again, this virtual ceremony, stage presentation, and commencement "cruise" do not preclude the possibility for a later celebration organized and hosted by the Senior Celebrations Committee of parents. We remain hopeful that off-campus social gatherings for graduates may be possible at a later time when it is safe and legal to convene.

Our alternative commencement plans reflect our best thinking given the opportunities and limitations as we know them today. Though the world around us feels uncertain, we do have the power to decide how we respond. We look forward to the weeks ahead and to our graduates' collective futures with optimism.


Shawn Ryan

Gary Kaul
CHS Principal

About Clarkston Community Schools: Clarkston is a highly regarded school district with an enrollment of nearly 7,100 students. We have seven elementary schools (K-5), one middle school serving grades 6-7, one junior high for grades 8-9, and Clarkston High School, which serves students in grades 10-12. We also have an Early Childhood Center serving children ages 3-5, and an alternative high school/community education facility. Clarkston Community Schools students are well-prepared for a future that excites them, and believe that they can achieve their dreams. The mission of Clarkston Community Schools is to create a learning environment where students, staff, and families are challenged, healthy, engaged, safe, and supported.

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Media Contact: Mary Ellen Rowe, Marketing Director (248) 623-5460.

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