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Lasting memories: Lone Grove High School combines traditional graduation ceremony, health recommendations

Michael Smith
msmith@ardmoreite.com
The Lone Grove High School class of 2020 throws caps into the air to mark the end of graduation ceremonies Friday. Even though social distancing guidelines were put in place, the school still held its scheduled graduation ceremony.

A health pandemic that has dragged normal life to a halt did not stop Lone Grove High School from senior graduation Friday, but it did make for a unique ceremony in the era of COVID-19. Administrators, families and graduates all donned face masks and practiced social distancing while celebrating the achievements of this year’s senior class.

“I would have never thought that four years ago, as a baby freshman, this is how it would end,” said salutatorian Anna Black during her address. “Everyone hopes and dreams of this moment...but I think we can all agree that it would never look like this.”

Speeches from class members had hints of bitterness about the abrupt closure of school buildings and a final day of school that came and went without fanfare. But the speeches also thanked staff and administration for preparing them for life after high school and giving them as traditional a graduation ceremony as possible.

“All 14 years of school have led up to this moment, and although it certainly did not play out as we had imagined, we still get to walk across this stage thanks to the innovative administration and staff at Lone Grove schools,” said valedictorian Isabel Dean.

As guests entered the gymnasium before the ceremony, staff handed out disposable face masks to anybody that did not have one. A table filled with hand sanitizer was also in the lobby and guests were reminded about hand sanitizing stations near each bathroom.

About 300 people were in attendance for the Friday ceremony, although the stands appear to hold close to 1,000 people. Signs were placed on seats to be used while a majority of seats were left empty to allow ample space between groups. A live stream of the ceremony was also made available on the school’s website, https://www.lonegrove.k12.ok.us/more/graduation, for friends and family unable to attend.

Beyond the ever-more-common scene of face masks and wide gaps between people, the Lone Grove graduation ceremony remained traditional. Prayers from seniors Jacob Benson and Mark French opened and closed the event, respectively, and senior Paige Anderson sang the class song “I Was Here” by Lady Antebellum.

Principal Chris Sudderth said during his address that many of the lyrics in the senior class song “hit close to home.”

“When the song says ‘you will notice me, I will be leaving my mark like initials carved in an old oak tree,’ I want the class of 2020 to know that you guys have indeed left your mark on Lone Grove High School. You guys have left us with lasting memories that we will cherish forever as teachers and staff,” said Sudderth.