Far from the traditional graduation, Escalon High School seniors can get their diploma during a ‘drive-thru’ type event on Friday, May 29.
On the day that would have seen them donning caps and gowns and walking into Memorial Stadium one final time as Cougars, the members of the Class of 2020 instead will get their diploma and a ‘senior care package’ between 10 a.m. and noon.
The drive thru will be at the school on Yosemite Avenue and teachers have been invited to – with social distancing in mind – congratulate the seniors as they drive in to pick up their diplomas.
Escalon High School ASB Bookkeeper and Scholarship Coordinator Karen Nunes said the seniors will receive their diplomas and any scholarships they were selected for; the district was not able to hold the traditional scholarships awards night.
They also will get something a little extra, Nunes said.
“Some donations have been made, things have come in and the Escalon Educational Foundation is also helping to collect items for the senior care packages,” Nunes said, noting that each graduate will receive some gifts. “We’re trying to keep them as happy as we can.”
Also a tentative graduation date has been set, with a formal ceremony hoped for on Saturday, Aug. 1.
Leading the Class of 2020 are Valedictorian Gloria Rodriguez and Salutatorian Christian Davalos-Gutierrez. There are about 170 seniors in the graduating class.
“We have over 70 students receiving scholarships,” Nunes added.
Students at all grade levels have been notified of times for them to return school books, Chromebooks and any school materials next week, at which time they will also have any items returned to them that they left behind when school abruptly shut down in mid-March.
Meanwhile, there are 216 eighth grade graduates at El Portal and they are currently planning a promotion ceremony for Friday, July 31. They are anticipating two sessions and are still working out the details.
The same as with the high school graduation, the ceremony being able to happen is dependent on where the state and county stand at that time regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
What won’t be available next week, before EHS seniors ‘graduate’ is the high school yearbook.
“The yearbook is still in the process of being printed and bound. Just like us, the plant in Kansas City which prints our yearbook, had to shut down. They reopened on May 1, but with a smaller staff to preserve social distancing. I am hoping the book will be shipped by mid-June, but it is hard to predict,” said Yearbook Advisor Erin Headley. “In the meantime, students can still purchase a yearbook online through the school website, and we will sell them until they are all gone. As far as distribution, it depends on the restrictions at the time. We may just have to have a drive by distribution, which is not fun at all, as the best part of yearbooks usually is having people sign it.”
Headley also offered praise for those involved in this year’s effort.
“My students, in particular my editor Taylor Ewing and the assistant editors Manar Algaheim and Adriana Marrufo Lopez, worked hard to make this book something special. This is our centennial edition, and it feels anti-climactic now with all the struggles we are facing as a country. However, this year with the school shutdown, the yearbook can help bring closure and remind students of the good times,” she said.
Also the English Department chair at EHS, Headley said distance learning was a difficult way to end the school year, at least for her personally as a teacher.
“I really miss my students, and it has been difficult seeing the impact on them. There is a synergy in classrooms, and that dynamic means that all of us become something more together than we can be alone. We inspire each other and learn from each other,” she pointed out. “Having a zoom meeting is just not the same thing, although I have been glad for the technology that makes it possible. I’ve been glad too for the absence of rush because it allows me to give more feedback and individual help.”