The three high schools in Casper will conduct their graduation ceremonies in a drive-in movie format at the Casper Events Center at the end of May.

Kelly Walsh High School Principal Mike Britt told the school district's trustees during a virtual meeting on YouTube on Monday that he and the other principals knew that state and local health orders would not allow them to conduct the ceremonies they were used to ever since COVID-19 pandemic arrived.

Plans for the next graduation begin the day after the previous class walks across the stage, and those organizing the commencement ceremonies meet frequently during the year, Britt said.

The advent of the coronavirus dashed proposed plans, he said. "Some were heartbreaking for us."

So they had to find another plan that was memorable and safe in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Natrona County Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell told the trustees that any indoor ceremony would not be advisable and that he would not approve it. "It is asking for trouble.'

Britt said district officials, working with the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, surveyed seniors and their parents and looked at six options that would have been safe.

The least favorable option was a virtual ceremony, he said.

Of the other options, officials and parents of the three largest schools in the district crafted outdoor ceremonies at the Casper Events Center, Britt said. Kelly Walsh High School will conduct its ceremony on May 28. Roosevelt and Natrona County high schools will conduct theirs on May 29.

Midwest High School has only 14 graduates, principal Chris Tobin said. So it will conduct its ceremony on the sports field drawn with socially-distancing-appropriate 10-foot grids for seniors and parents. Spectators can observe the commencement from outside the chain link fence around the field, Tobin said.

For their commencements, Britt said Kelly Walsh, Natrona County and Roosevelt high schools will borrow a large screen from the Natrona County Fairgrounds and would be flanked by two stages on two Events Center parking lots.

The students and their parents would drive to the parking lots, Britt said.

Ten students, appropriately socially distanced, would walk to the stage, have their names read by someone they chose, receive their diplomas, and return to their vehicles, he said.

All of this would be projected on the large screen live and simultaneously streamed through multiple platforms through Townsquare Media (the owner of K2 Radio). Speeches would be prerecorded and broadcast on the screen.

After all seniors receive their diplomas, they would get out of their cars and flip the tassels on their mortarboards, and fireworks shows would follow, Britt said.

Other community agencies will participate for logistics, traffic flow, public health and other matters to make this a memorable experience, he said.

"It is not lost on us that this is not the ceremony that the class of 2020 dreamt of for 13 years," he said.

Nonetheless, school officials will make this amazing and memorable moment, and a safe one as well, Britt said.

Dowell added, "It's cooler than what I had in high school."

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