Chilkat Valley News: Murkowski to address graduation, virtually

Sen. Lisa Murkowski will speak at Haines School’s virtual graduation ceremony later this month.

In late April, Alaska Education Commissioner Michael Johnson issued a memo with Department of Health and Social Services-approved guidelines for graduation ceremonies throughout the state. The guidelines specify that in-person graduations must be limited to groups of fewer than 20 people, and those present must wear masks and refrain from physical interactions.

In recent weeks, a handful of students have participated in meetings with school faculty and administration to finalize plans for an alternative graduation.

“We’re going to have a ceremony that’s going to be virtual so out-of-town family members can attend, but then have a more local community event,” superintendent Roy Getchell said. Getchell said the local event will be in keeping with state health mandates.

Haines School’s online ceremony will feature speeches from a member of the school administration, the class salutatorian and valedictorian and Murkowski, the graduation speaker.

Class president and member of the graduation planning committee Dylan Chapell said the students put forward Murkowski’s name with the hope of making the most of their virtual graduation. “She’s someone who’s a big name in our state… Because (graduation) is going to be online anyway, there’s an ability to get somebody who we couldn’t normally get to come to Haines.”

Instead of receiving diplomas one by one in the school gym, during the virtual graduation, each student will be handed their diploma by another member of their household. Chapell said he expects his mom will be the one to hand him his diploma.

After the virtual ceremony, which will be streamed online, students will have a short break to get ready for the in-person celebration.

Chapell said students and school administrators are still finalizing plans for the gathering. He said it could involve a parade-like event where cars drive through town.

School faculty and administrators have been supportive of students’ voices in the process of shaping graduation, Chapell said. “The teachers are doing a lot of the legwork, but they are being very responsive to our decisions.”

An early idea for graduation had involved pre-recording the entire ceremony. “Eventually we decided we didn’t like that,” Chapell said.

The staff worked with seniors, and now the speeches will be delivered live to give more of a feeling of participation. Other parts still will be pre-recorded, like the compilation video of seniors walking in to “Pomp and Circumstance” and moving the tassels on their caps.

Chapell said he’s already recorded his video. “I got all dressed up in my cap and gown, and Mr. Peters came and recorded me doing all the actions.”

Graduation is scheduled for May 19.

Source: Chilkat Valley News