Edison Preparatory School senior Emily Workman (left) has her photo taken while cheering for the University of Oklahoma as Beverly Hinds looks on during a photo shoot on campus on May 6. Workman plans on attending OU. Their senior years were cut short due to COVID-19. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World file

Tulsa Public Schools will host special “drive-up” graduation ceremonies at each high school next week to celebrate seniors while exercising safety, the district announced Wednesday afternoon.

The unorthodox commencement events are scheduled from next Tuesday through Friday at the district’s nine high schools and two of its alternative schools, Tulsa Learning Academy and Tulsa MET.

While many local districts rescheduled their graduation ceremonies to the summer in hope of social distancing sanctions lifting in time, TPS has waited to put out a plan until now.

Administrators have spent the past several weeks communicating with a working group of students, teachers, parents and school leaders on how to address graduation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students in the working group reportedly identified three traditions they most wanted to see recreated within current health and safety restrictions: wearing a cap and gown, picking up a diploma cover and turning the tassel. The drive-up ceremonies will allow for all three.

“While we would all prefer to hold a traditional celebration, the ‘drive-up’ graduation includes the elements that we know matter most to our seniors,” Superintendent Deborah Gist said. “This is not, of course, how any of us expected to celebrate the class of 2020, but our school leaders, class sponsors, teachers and staff are looking forward to creating a meaningful experience for our graduates, even if it’s from a distance.”

TPS is “strongly encouraging” individuals to follow the city of Tulsa’s guidelines and wear a mask while participating in the drive-up graduations, according to a news release. While on campus, students and parents should remain in their cars and until they arrive at the diploma pick-up spot only. Individuals who do not follow health and safety protocols will be asked to leave the campus.

Gist said the district still hopes to also host traditional ceremonies in July if social distancing restrictions are lifted and the Centers for Disease Control gives the all-clear for large gatherings. She believes a decision will be made in early June.

After about two months of engaging in distance learning this semester, students will finish the school year Friday, making way for the graduation celebrations next week.

TPS will kick off graduation week on Sunday by lighting up the University of Tulsa’s stadium, OKEOK Field and every stadium within the district at 8:20 p.m. for 20 minutes and 20 seconds to recognize the Class of 2020.

Graduation schedule

May 19 (Tuesday): 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Webster High School, 1919 W. 40th St.

May 19 (Tuesday): 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. East Central High School, 12150 E. 11 St.

May 20 (Wednesday): 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Booker T. Washington High School, 1514 E. Zion St.

May 20 (Wednesday): 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Will Rogers College High School, 3909 E. Fifth Pl.

May 20 (Wednesday): 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Central High School, 3101 W. Edison St.

May 21 (Thursday): 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. McLain High School, 4929 N. Peoria Ave.

May 21 (Thursday): 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nathan Hale High School, 6960 E. 21st St.

May 21 (Thursday): 4 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Memorial High School, 5840 S. Hudson Ave.

May 22 (Friday): 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tulsa Learning Academy, 525 E. 46th St. North

May 22 (Friday): 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Edison Preparatory High School 2906 E. 41st St.

May 22 (Friday): 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tulsa MET, 6201 E. Virgin St.

Gallery: Owasso seniors grab their graduation caps and gowns in drive-up line amid COVID-19

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Kyle Hinchey


Twitter: @kylehinchey

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