More than 400 seniors prepare to graduate from Klamath County School District high schools

Imagine. Plan. Create.

That’s what Klamath County School District principals had to do when the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to reinvent traditional graduation ceremonies.

More than 400 Klamath County School District seniors will graduate June 5, 6, 7 and July 4 in ceremonies across the county under state mandates that prevent parents, friends, and family members from gathering in football stadiums and gymnasiums to celebrate together.

Following social distancing guidelines, KCSD high school administrators and staff in the past month have redesigned graduation, planning celebrations that honor graduates who did not experience a traditional end to senior year.

“Our principals have created ceremonies that commemorate our seniors’ accomplishments under extraordinary circumstances,” said Glen Szymoniak, superintendent of the Klamath County School District. “Thank you to our families for joining us in marking and honoring this milestone for seniors.”

Each school has created a celebration unique to their community and graduates.

Most of the graduations will be drive-through or drive-up events. Guests will stay in vehicles or watch via livestream video feeds while seniors cross a stage and receive their diplomas.

Some schools will livestream entire ceremonies on Facebook and other platforms so family members and guests who cannot attend can still participate. Other schools are preparing graduation videos that include speeches and special segments that will air after the graduates receive their diplomas.

Falcon Heights Academy, Great Basin Homeschool Center, and Mazama High School will kick off a weekend of ceremonies Friday, June. 5. Bonanza and Gilchrist seniors graduate Saturday, June 6, and Chiloquin and Henley graduates will receive diplomas Sunday, June 7.

Lost River Junior/Senior High School, after surveying seniors and families, has postponed its ceremony until Saturday, July 4. At that time, administrators hope social distancing guidelines will allow for a more traditional ceremony for the school’s 40 seniors, said Principal Jamie Ongman.

Meanwhile, Lost River has planned weekly celebrations leading up to the ceremony. At 11 a.m., June 6, the day of Lost River’s originally scheduled graduation, seniors will participate in the Merrill-Malin Graduation Sensation Parade, donning their caps and gowns and parading down the street in front of the elementary schools. A virtual senior awards and scholarship ceremony is scheduled for 6 p.m., June 10 and a virtual signing day will be hosted on

June 17. If guidelines allow, a small in-person celebration, such as a barbecue, will be the week before the July 4 ceremony.

“We want to make sure our seniors were still celebrated and still connected up to the graduation ceremony,” Ongman said. “Extending the timeframe is going to provide an opportunity to do things we would not otherwise be able to do.”

Following is what KCSD high schools have planned. Specific details were provided to seniors and their families.

  • Falcon Heights and Great Basin Homeschool seniors will receive their diplomas in a drive-through ceremony at 11 a.m., Friday, June 5, in the bus parking lot in the Henley Complex.
  • Mazama High School’s 132 seniors will participate in a drive-through graduation Friday, June 5. Vehicles during a two-hour timeframe will loop through the campus until they reach the stage. The graduate will exit the vehicle, cross the stage and pose for a formal graduation picture before leaving campus to celebrate with family and friends. At 7 p.m., the school will post online a virtual ceremony commemorating their graduates. That ceremony will include traditional graduation speeches and highlight each graduating senior.
  • Bonanza Junior/Senior High School will host its graduation at 10 a.m., June 6 in front of the school, allowing invited guests to park in the lot to watch the ceremony from their vehicles. The ceremony will be live streamed on Facebook. A limited number of family members will be able to come to the stage to watch as each of the 27 seniors receive their diplomas.
  • Gilchrist Junior/Senior High School’s nine seniors will receive their diplomas at an 11 a.m., June 6 ceremony on Bennett Field. The seniors will participate in a traditional ceremony but the audience will remain in their vehicles on the track or in the parking lot. The ceremony will air live on the local radio station. A videographer will film the graduation and create a commemorative video for seniors. “We have the luxury of having a small class so we can stay within the guidelines and have a more traditional ceremony,” said Principal Steve Prock. The senior slideshow usually shown at graduation will be viewed by small groups before the ceremony, and afterwards be posted on the school’s Facebook page.
  • Chiloquin Junior/Senior High School’s 12 seniors will graduate at 10 a.m., June 7 in a drive-up style ceremony at the high school’s north lawn. A limited number of family members will be allowed on the field as their senior receives a diploma. The ceremony will be live streamed.
  • Henley High School’s 154 graduates will receive diplomas in a 3 p.m., June 7 drive-up celebration at the Klamath County Fairgrounds Event Center. Families will drive their senior into the event center, and stay in their vehicles while they watch their senior walk across the stage and receive their diploma. Families will leave and seniors will stay at the event center, following social distance gathering guidelines, for a ceremony. That ceremony will be live streamed and also carried on the radio — 102.5 FM/1450 AM KFLS — so families can watch and listen from their vehicles.
  • Lost River Junior/Senior High School will host its graduation ceremony for its 40 seniors at 11 a.m., July 4 in front of the school. Families will be in cars for social distancing purposes, but plans are for seniors to sit in front of the stage, following social distancing, and participate in a traditional ceremony. Other dates: June 6, Merrill-Malin Graduation Sensation Parade; June 10, virtual awards and scholarship; June 17, virtual signing day.

For the past month, schools have been posting tributes to their Class of 2020 on social media, posting photos, shout outs and videos. Check your school’s Facebook page for these tributes and other virtual senior events.

Bonanza senior Taylor Randall smiles as she poses behind a graduation gift bag given to the school’s 27 seniors last week when they showed up to pick up caps and gowns.

A staff member hands Henley senior Mason Graves his cap and gown during a drive-through pickup in mid-May. Photo by Don Perryman