Westside Community Schools Prepares For Possible Virtual Graduation Ceremony


Aayushi Chaudhary

Due to public health concerns, Westside Community Schools must consider the option of a virtual graduation ceremony during the month of June.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting social and community gatherings, it is uncertain whether or not an in person Graduation ceremony will be an option for high school seniors. Westside High School Principal Jay Opperman recently sent an email to Westside seniors on Monday, April 13, regarding the various plans for Graduation ceremonies at this time, including the possibility of having a virtual ceremony. Opperman, Board of Education President Adam Yale and Westside Community Schools Superintendent Mike Lucas included details which outlined the criteria for the three different ceremony plans.

“We continue to receive weekly updates from the Douglas County Health Department and Governor Ricketts, and we look forward to their future guidance about whether large group gatherings will be allowable in June or July,” the document stated. ”Right now, we know we are restricted through May 31st. What we don’t know is when we will receive guidance on what will be permissible in June and/or July. We don’t know if we will find out in late May that we are restricted though June 20th or July 22nd or what the announcement or timeline will look like. With that, we are planning for as many possibilities as we can.”

Besides the Graduation ceremony being held at a much later date than usual in person or virtually, each Graduation plan will also include Westside High School’s West Campus students whereas in years past, there has been a separate Graduation ceremony for these students. If large group gatherings in June are permissible, the district will go with their “Plan A” which will be an in person ceremony towards the end of June. 

A traditional Graduation ceremony would be scheduled for June 20th or 27th at 2:00 PM at Baxter Arena,” the document stated. “We would pick the 20th if that was allowable by the health department.”

The “Plan B” for a Graduation ceremony would be set in place if large group gatherings are not allowed in June but they are in July.

“A traditional Graduation ceremony would be scheduled for July 18th at 2:00 PM at Baxter Arena OR A modified Graduation ceremony would take place on July 25th at the football/soccer stadium area on the WHS Campus in the evening with official time to be announced,” the document stated. “Our decision of which date will depend on the timing of an announcement from Health Department leaders and how long large-group restrictions are extended. We would select the 18th if that was allowable by health department leaders.”

If large group gatherings are not allowed in June or July, then the district will go with their “Plan C” which includes a virtual Graduation ceremony.

“We will hold a virtual Graduation ceremony on June 27th or July 18th,” the document stated. “Again, our decision of which date will depend on the timing of an announcement from Health Department leaders and if/how long large-group restrictions are extended. If it was announced in late May or early June that these large group restrictions are in place through July, we would go ahead and have the virtual Graduation on June 27th.”

Following the three plans for Graduation ceremonies, the document stated that as of right now, the district is planning for a virtual ceremony to take place during June or July of this summer.

“Due to so many unknowns, we are planning for a virtual ceremony now, and need YOU to help with this important process,” the document stated. “While we hold on to a little hope we can have a traditional Graduation ceremony this summer, it appears likely we will need to have a virtual Graduation.  We want to be fully prepared.”

The document also outlined the specifics for a potential virtual Graduation, including how it will be accessed during and after the ceremony.

“Should a virtual graduation take place, it would air on YurView Cox Channel 1013 and be shared online,” the document stated. “We will also provide a DVD copy of the virtual graduation to every graduate within a few weeks after the event.”

Opperman, Yale and Lucas emphasized that the district is making a strong effort to recognize and celebrate the class of 2020’s accomplishments as well as promising futures.

“Our Board of Education, administrative team, and high school staff are committed to finding the best way possible to celebrate the Class of 2020,” the document stated. ”Difficult events like this COVID-19 crisis shape character and forge us as stronger, more resilient individuals, even if we all would have preferred different outcomes. Your class has brought much joy to our community, and we remain excited about your bright futures that lie ahead.”