High school to hold virtual, drive-in graduation for class of 2020


By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

The class of 2020 is setting itself apart as the class of COVID-19, and Pagosa Springs High School’s (PSHS) seniors are no different.

This year’s graduating class won’t gather with family and friends in the school’s gym to celebrate their achievements, class history and look to the future at the end of the month like they’d originally planned.

Instead, the class of 2020’s graduation will be a virtual one that will be viewed on May 30 in the style of a drive-in movie.

“The virtual graduation will allow us to incorporate many of the traditional components of a PSHS graduation ceremony,” a letter to parents of the graduating class states. “We will be recording all of the components of the ceremony over the next few weeks. If we receive permission to do a drive-in style gathering, the class of 2020 and their families can then come together and view the ceremony as a group. An additional benefit of the virtual streaming option is that it will also allow family and friends to view the ceremony at the same time no matter where they are located.”

The letter, written by Superintendent Linda Reed and PSHS Principal Sean O’Donnell, indicates that the decision was made after many meetings and webinars, and with feedback from students and parents.

Reed told the Archuleta School District Board of Education Tuesday evening that the district has received the needed permissions to hold the drive-in event on May 30 and is working with a company out of Denver to bring a specialized screen for the viewing.

A time for the event has not been set.

She added that planning the ceremony has “been completely uncharted territory.”

In an email to The SUN, Reed explained that a team at PSHS including Principal Sean O’Donnell, Assistant Principal Marcie Ham, Stewart Bellina and Assistant Superintendent Laura Mijares — worked “round the clock to create a memorable experience for the Class of 2020, while keeping within the guidance and restrictions of the Safer At Home order from Governor Polis and in conjunction with San Juan Basin Health District and the Town of Pagosa Springs. We also held a virtual Town Hall meeting with parents of seniors last Monday to share what we knew and to gather input from them.”

“Through this entire process, my heart really goes out to the class of 2020,” O’Donnell told The SUN Wednesday, adding that it’s a difficult time no one could have predicted and this year’s seniors deserve normal. “They deserve the best.”

He noted graduation is “such an important moment everyone looks forward to.”

“The time honored tradition of each graduate’s name being called and receiving their diploma on stage will be captured on film at the high school,” the letter to parents explains. “We will have a professional photographer and also an opportunity for families to take pictures of this tradition. We will be doing this in a controlled manner that meets the appropriate social distancing guidelines.”

The letter later states: “The virtual ceremony will not only include traditional components but other features specific to the class of 2020. The recording of the ceremony will be available to all the graduates and their families to keep forever. 

“We believe this format will provide the best way to honor the class of 2020 under our current restrictions and guidelines. While this is not the way we wanted it to be, this is the reality with which we must deal. We hope you will join us in making this time extra special for our graduates.”