Students at Fairfield, Ross get personal graduation ceremonies in new venues

More of the area’s unusual, high school graduations continued this week as students were handed diplomas in private, family-oriented commencements in a sports stadium and on a school stage.

Hundreds of Fairfield High School seniors and immediate family are attending pre-scheduled graduation ceremonies being held on the field of the Fairfield Alumni Stadium through Friday rather than the usual venue due to the coronavirus.

Cap and gown-clad graduates are announced over the stadium’s PA system, celebrated by school district officials, then parade around the stadium track after ringing the high school’s official victory bell. The teens are then encouraged to pose for photos at various picturesque points around the stadium.

If it rains, the commencements are moved into the high school’s indoor sports arena.

It’s not ideal, said school officials, but given the crowd restrictions mandated by state health officials, the open-air venue still gives each graduate – and their families - a personalized spotlight of commencement glory.

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“Given the challenging times, we worked hard to properly celebrate our students successes while at the same time meeting the guidelines and expectations of local, state, and national officials to keep everyone safe,” said Bill Rice, principal of Fairfield High School.

“We think the series of recognitions that we have hosted for our students has shown them we recognize their hard work and understand that they have had a lot taken from them during this time. Our goal from the beginning was to offer ways to celebrate our students while maintaining safe environments for our staff, students, and community,” said Rice.

Ross High School’s auditorium stage, which has been unused since all Ohio schools were closed in March under state orders, came alive this week as seniors and their families celebrated their graduation ceremonies by appointment.

Last week saw a number of Butler and Warren county high schools hold drive-through and even a movie drive-in graduation ceremony.

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But Brian Martin, principal of Ross High School, said district officials wanted to offer a different sort of commencement experience.

“We had 20 ceremonies (Tuesday) afternoon and evening and the response was universally positive,” said Martin.

Graduates and their families came into the school’s auditorium at their appointed times to join school officials for a safe-distancing ceremony, and some said they found it surprisingly enjoyable compared to the usual, mass crowd graduations involving an audience of thousands.

“Several folks commented that they were so glad we were doing things this way as opposed to a virtual or drive-thru ceremony. We even had a couple of parents remark that they actually preferred this type of ceremony to a traditional graduation because it was so much more intimate and personal,” he said.

“We have around 175 of those scheduled over six days. It will take us about 43 hours to get through all of them but we feel like it’s absolutely worth it to give our seniors and their families the individualized attention they deserve.”

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