It’s not the graduation the more than 100 Llano High School seniors envisioned at the start of the school year, but faced with delaying it further into the summer, they agreed to go ahead with a different format.
“We’ll do it in small groups, or individually where we need to, but students, they say they want to go ahead and do it,” Principal Jeni Neatherlin said.
Llano will hold a hybrid graduation ceremony as allowed under Gov. Greg Abbott’s directives regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of holding one ceremony with all seniors and their families and friends gathering together, school officials developed a plan that calls for seniors and a predetermined number of family members coming to the high school auditorium at a scheduled time on May 22 or May 26-29.
“We’re going to do it in small groups,” Neatherlin said. “If there’s a family with a compromised immune system, maybe they have someone with cancer or something like that, we’ll give them the option to do it individually.”
During the hybrid ceremony, each senior will walk across the stage in cap and gown to receive their diploma while their family looks on. Seniors will be filmed as will the speakers, including the valedictorian.
The videos will be edited together into a full ceremony, including seniors walking in to “Pomp and Circumstance,” the speakers, the certification of graduates, the presentation of diplomas, and Llano High School’s traditional ringing of the bell.
Each graduating senior will receive a free recording as well as a graduation photo. The video also will be made available to the public.
It’s been quite a year, Neatherlin said, but students and staff have responded phenomenally.
One thing that helped students and faculty shift to remote learning in March after campuses were closed was the high school’s one-to-one initiative, meaning every high school student is assigned a personal electronic device such as a Chromebook.
“We have probably fewer than six percent who don’t have home internet access,” she added.
Llano Independent School District set up locations with free internet access for students, and, Neatherlin noted, Marble Falls Independent School District gave LISD students access to one of its Wi-Fi-enabled school buses.
While students often wish for school-free days, Neatherlin said she’s heard from many students who miss on-campus classes.
“They want to come back,” she said. “We get emails every day from students saying they miss school.”
As for how the past few months will impact graduating seniors, Neatherlin said those going to college likely will have developed better self-discipline and other skills needed to succeed.
Llano High School leaders wanted to hold a graduation ceremony for the seniors to give them a sense of closure and accomplishment.
During the spring, seniors attend a number of banquets and ceremonies highlighting their extracurricular, academic, and community achievements. This year, officials canceled those events due to the pandemic.
However, Llano will honor these accomplishments during the hybrid graduation ceremony.
“We’re going to name all their accolades when they walk across the stage,” Neatherlin said.
While it’s not the ideal way to wrap up the school year and send off the Class of 2020, students will have something else to take with them wherever they go next.
“They’re going to have a really good story,” Neatherlin said. “And I’m so glad we can give them some closure and a graduation.”