OV, other RNeSU schools, craft pandemic graduations


BRANDON/ WEST RUTLAND/ PROCTOR — It will take longer, and there won’t be any hugging or handshaking as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, but local high school seniors will have a graduation this year.

It took some collaborative and creativity to get here, but Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Jeanne Collins said graduating seniors at Otter Valley Union High School were motivated in creating a graduation plan that would work. The goal: To graduate together in a pandemic and still adhere to state health and safety guidelines.

“The kids worked very well with the administration in designing what they felt was a memorable experience for them,” Collins said. “It was important that they were together and still meet state requirements. This honors them.”

Otter Valley’s 2020 graduation will be held on Saturday, June 13 at 9:30 a.m. and will feature 65 graduates. The students and their families will drive or be driven out in one car per student to the football practice field on the south end of the campus past the softball field. The cars will park in rows facing a stage. One row at a time, the graduates will get out of their cars and walk up to receive their diplomas from Collins and OV Principal Jim Avery, have their photo taken by a professional photographer with Avery and Collins, and then return to their cars. The event is closed to the public.


1. Students must wear masks. Students will wear masks while they stand by their car and as they approach the stage. They can remove the mask for a photo on the stage and can remove the mask for the photo with the professional photographer. OV masks will be available to students.

2. Up to five family members in the student car can approach the stage with their student to take photographs. They must wear masks and follow social distancing rules.

3. Masks may be removed while delivering speeches and announcing the names of graduates with physical distance from others.

The whole ceremony will be recorded and a video will be created of the graduation for each student.

Afterwards, the entire class will parade through Brandon in their cars to the RNeSU offices at Park Village.

Each member of this year’s OV graduating class was also honored with a banner, one for each of the 65 seniors receiving a diploma. A crew of volunteers started at 7 a.m. sharp in Pittsford and spent the next several hours hanging banners from telephone poles all the way through Brandon to Leicester along Route 7.

The entire graduation idea was student-driven, Collins said, and she is very impressed.

“We sent out a survey to students and parents, and the ideas were refined by the class officers,” she said. “They were really creative. They wanted something personal but had to work within the mandates and restrictions. They came to me and this gives me great hope for the future. They were positive, cooperative and collaborative.”

Other RNeSU schools are holding pandemic graduation ceremonies this year. The came idea applies to Lothrop Elementary School in Pittsford, where on June 6 from 10 a.m. – noon, sixth-grade graduates will come by car with their families and circle through the Lothrop parking lot to receive their diplomas.

At the Neshobe School in Brandon, there will be staggered sixth-grade graduations over three days, June 9, 10 and 11 from 4-6:30 p.m.

At Barstow Elementary School in Chittenden, sixth-graders will graduate on June 8 from noon to 5 p.m.

In West Rutland, seniors will graduate June 6 at 7 p.m. The ceremony will be broadcast on Facebook Live and recorded on Peg-TV. It is closed to the general public. Principal Jay Slenker said each senior will be allowed three cars that can come on campus.

“With 17 grads, we can follow the Agency of Education and Governor’s rule of 25 at a gathering,” Slenker said. “The students will sit to the side of our Gazebo and it will run as a typical graduation with in person speeches. The exception is the guests will be in their cars like at a drive in.”

Proctor High School will also hold its own “drive-thru” graduation at 10 a.m. on June 6 at the high school for students and families. The event is closed to the public. A parade through town to follow.

After the ceremony, there will be a town parade afterwards led by the Rutland County Sheriffs Department and West Rutland Fire Department. 

Students have been out of school buildings and doing distance learning from home since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March. Only recently have restrictions been slowly lifted to allow some stores and services to re-open, but schools closed for the school year.  Collins said graduating students in particular should be honored for what they have achieved during a very difficult semester being separated from classmates, school sports and activities for the last 10 weeks.

“I think the more we can do for the seniors, the better,” she said. “It’s been a unique year.”

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