Graduation for the Class of 2020

UPDATED: June 1, 2020
 
Dear RAHS and FAHS seniors, and the families of the class of 2020,
 

This spring has presented a series of disappointments for all of our students, but the elimination of important milestones and traditions has affected seniors more than any other group. We grieve these losses with you, seniors, and want you to know that we care deeply about how this global pandemic has impacted your final year with us.

That is precisely why we felt that any decision we made about commencement had to be informed by your wishes. Last week we asked seniors to participate in an interactive exchange of thoughts and ideas about creating meaningful and memorable celebrations to mark the conclusion of their high school experience.

The larger the word, the more common it appeared in students' highest-rated thoughts.More than 120 students participated in the thought exchange, generating 129 thoughts and creating more than 4,000 reactions to those thoughts. The image on the right (click to enlarge) provides a visual representation of the most common words shared in the exchange, based on the star rating of the thoughts in which they appear. Clearly, the traditions of decorating a graduation cap and wearing a gown are elements that our students feel are essential parts of the graduation experience. 


Students also weighed in on themes for alternative ceremonies—including the look and feel of alternatives to a traditional celebration—as well as ideas for delayed in-person gatherings to see friends and teachers after crowd restrictions are lifted. We invite you to visit this interactive live report of the student feedback, and a full report and analysis of the student engagement is also available.

You may be aware that last Friday, the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Health issued guidance to schools that outlined limited options for school districts, charter schools, and colleges and universities to hold commencement ceremonies. The state's guidance said that "Ceremonies held outside in stadiums and football fields are not considered safe at any size and will not be permitted. Likewise, indoor graduations/commencement ceremonies will also not be permitted."

The state went on to instruct that the safest way to observe graduation/commencement is for everyone to stay home. For this reason—and recognizing that the safety of our students, families and staff is our most important responsibility—we have decided that we will hold a virtual commencement ceremony at the end of the year, and we will plan to hold an in-person event when it is determined safe to do so, so that as many of our graduates as possible can gather with their friends, families and teachers to celebrate.

We know how disappointing this news is for many of you. We also know that many of our students have been thinking deeply about this topic, and recognize that remaining flexible in the face of a global pandemic can create unexpected opportunities to be creative. With the help of our students, we will create a memorable experience that—while not ideal—will provide students with an event that honors traditions they value in a way that utilizes technology they are familiar with to interact in real-time with each other.


You are wondering, what does it mean that we are having a "virtual graduation?" Here are some of the things that we know right now. More details will be coming soon.

  • The RAHS ceremony will be broadcast live on our district YouTube channel at 7 p.m. Friday, June 5. The FAHS ceremony will be broadcast live on our district YouTube channel at 6 p.m. Friday, June 12. Both will be able to be re-watched at your convenience online.
  • This format will allow us to have the ceremony closed captioned so that it is fully accessible and also translated into Spanish.
  • We will provide digital invitations to share with friends and family via social media or email so you can celebrate with those who are not with you in your home.
  • Caps and gowns will be available for pickup in advance of the event. You will be able to decorate your cap and wear them during the ceremony! Principals Freer and Hester will even have you all move your tassels together at the end of the ceremony.
  • Using the event hashtag #RaiderStrong2020 (for RAHS) and #FAHSstrong2020 (for FAHS), you can share photos, video and celebrate in real time via your favorite social media channels. All of the social media content with this event hashtag will be pulled together at isd623.org/raiderstrong2020 or isd623.org/FAHSstrong2020 so that anyone can follow along with the fun!
  • The RAHS band and the Goodpellas are working on music that will be included in the ceremony. Also, the Minnesota Orchestra has made a special recording of "Pomp and Circumstance" from their homes that we will use in our celebration.
  • There will be student speeches.
  • Staff members will recognize individual graduates.
  • Each student will be recognized by name in the event. Your name will be read aloud on your graduation day. 

Seniors, once again we thank you for your incredible patience and resilience. You will remember your senior year for things you accomplished, and the ways in which you persevered during historic challenges. 

Sincerely,

Superintendent Aldo Sicoli
Principal Chris Hester
Principal Laura Freer

 

Please share your comments with us at communications@isd623.org