Schools making graduation plans — but health will prevail

During its June 2 meeting, the Plumas County Board of Supervisors approved Chester High School’s request to ask Caltrans for a permit to hold a graduation parade June 12. However, whether that parade actually can be held remains to be seen.

Supervisor Sherrie Thrall, who represents the Chester area, said that she had discussed the issue with Public Health Director Andrew Woodruff, and learned that the parade can only be held “if it’s legal at the time.” Woodruff, who was in the audience to update the supervisors on coronavirus, agreed. “At this time it’s not legal to take place,” he said. That’s because the state has not yet provided guidelines for such activities.

During an interview this morning, June 3, Environmental Health Director Jerry Sipe, who has been working with Woodruff and school officials on graduation plans, said that the issue with the Chester parade was the plan to gather at the end of it, as well as the possibility of crowds gathering along the parade route. He compared that to an event planned by Plumas Charter School to have a caravan of vehicles drive by individual students’ homes. In that venue, “people are staying in their own yards.”

Sipe said that he and others are receiving calls from parents wanting to hold traditional graduation ceremonies, but those types of gatherings have not yet received state approval. As of now they are focusing on drive-up style graduations, where students would take turns driving up, emerging from their cars, walking across the stage and picking up a diploma from a table. Such events are in the works for the athletic fields at Chester, Greenville and Portola high schools, while Quincy High would hold its ceremony at the fairgrounds. However, no plans are firm as of yet.

Plumas Unified School District Superintendent Terry Oestreich sent out a letter addressing this issue yesterday. She wrote: “As we continue to have conversations related to public health requirements that keep our community safe from the spread of COVID-19, we also continue to devote time to related details of graduation.   Under the current conditions, we are planning to provide all graduates and their families with a memorable experience that honors their achievements.

“In collaboration with the Plumas County Public Health and Environmental Health Departments, at this time, Plumas Unified School District will honor the plans for a non-gathering graduation. Each high school within our four communities have identified plans for a drive-up ceremony.

“In addition, it’s important for you to know that each high school has also made plans and will be prepared to make modifications if it is safe and legal to do so; however, the chances of that being the case are not likely to happen.

“Please know that we understand your requests and the considerations some have shared with us to bring students, families and staff together; however, to do so poses a risk and is not considered safe. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the lives and well-being of all people and while we are disappointed that it has interrupted this year’s graduation ceremonies, we are so proud of the many accomplishments of each graduate.  We have great confidence in each senior’s future as they pursue the next level of their personal and professional endeavors.”

The Plumas Charter School announced drive-up graduation plans earlier this week. Graduation ceremonies are taking a variety of forms. Sixth-graders in Greenville will have a ceremony parade in front of Indian Valley Academy building on the evening of Thursday, June 4, and Quincy sixth-graders can expect a home parade ceremony on today, June 3. PCS Quincy seniors will also have an individualized home visit graduation parade on Friday, June 5, starting at 11 a.m. IVA seniors will have a parade style ceremony starting at 6 p.m. also on Friday, June 5, in front of the Indian Valley Academy building.  Chester seniors can expect home visits and individualized ceremonies Friday as well.

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