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Knoch endeavors to give seniors a graduation

Diplomas, pictures part of the plan

The 2019-20 school year has been a challenge for school district administrators, especially when it comes to honoring their graduating seniors.

But creative minds are helping high school principals come up with pandemic-compliant ways to make commencement as special as possible for seniors.

Todd Trofimuk, principal at Knoch High School, received approval for a commencement plan he presented Wednesday night to the school board at its virtual meeting.

Knoch's 213 seniors and their families will choose a five-minute time slot from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, or from 1 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 3, or Thursday, June 4, when the senior — in a cap and gown — and four guests will drive up to the bus lane on the Dinnerbell Road entrance to the high school.

There, security will tell them when to exit their car and will escort them to the high school auditorium.

The families will remain at least 10 feet from one another as they wait in line for their senior's name to be announced.

The announced senior's guests will assemble in front of the stage and their senior will stride across the stage.

The senior will pass Trofimuk, Superintendent David Foley and Melissa Grantz, Knoch assistant principal, as they approach the table where the diplomas will be available.

All students and guests must wear masks, as will security and school officials involved in the commencement.

The student may remove the mask when the school photographer takes a graduation picture against a backdrop offstage.

More photographs with the student's guests may be taken in the hallway on the east side of the auditorium or in the outdoor courtyard nearby.

The student and their guests will then exit the school through the doors near the flagpole facing Knoch Road, return to their car and leave campus.

On June 4, the school will post a virtual commencement on the district's website at www.southbutler.org. The virtual commencement will include speeches by Trofimuk and Foley as well as the top students in the Class of 2020.

A photograph of each graduate, which all but three seniors have already submitted, will be shown while music plays.

“We're still trying to comply with social-distancing guidelines, so we thought this presents a way for the kids to be dressed up in their cap and gown, walk across stage and get their diploma, and take some pictures,” Trofimuk said.

Student participation in the graduation is not mandatory, Trofimuk said.

Michael Kohl, a student from Clinton Township said the graduation is better than the initial plan of holding commencement ceremonies in late July. “I like it because it gives the kids who are going to be busy during the summer a chance to essentially have their own little graduation,” Michael said.

He also appreciates the unusual graduation plan created by school officials. “I think it's great they are putting forth the effort,” he said. “It gives everyone a chance to have a graduation instead of just saying this class is not going to have one.”

While he looks forward to studying electrical engineering and manufacturing in the fall at Penn State, Michael said he will always remember the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It's been a fun, great year and it's kind of sad that it got cut short,” he said, “but I made a lot of great memories.”

Mackensie Roccia of Jefferson Township agreed the school district has the seniors' best interests at heart. “I think it's nice that they are trying to make it the best they can for us,” she said.

But Mackensie and her friends wish their senior year had been more typical. “It's not the same and we're sad we can't see each other,” she said, “but I think they understand, and I'm happy the school district is trying to give us the best senior year they can.”

Mackensie will enroll in the physician assistant program at Slippery Rock University in the fall.

Trofimuk said about 40 scholarships will be announced in a virtual awards night May 27.