Jackson Hole High School 2019 commencement ceremony

Citlalli Hernandez-Moreno is applauded by her classmates after giving her speech during Jackson Hole High School’s 2019 commencement ceremony. This year’s graduation will go on — but it will look different from past years’.

Most Jackson Hole High School seniors probably haven’t seen a drive-in movie, but their graduation next month is going to look a lot like one.

Social distancing means graduating seniors at Teton County’s largest high school and Summit Innovations School can’t go through with a normal ceremony, one in an auditorium with speeches, handshaking and throwing of hats. Administrators have found a work-around, however, and told parents in a video conference call last week that a joint graduation for the schools would take place in the Jackson Hole High School senior parking lot.

“We picked the school because we thought students are missing their school and didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to it,” Registrar Mary Tisi told parents.

At 11 a.m. June 6 the families of all 193 seniors from the two high schools will be able to drive to Jackson Hole High School, where they will be greeted by yard signs with pictures of individual students.

One car will be allowed for each family, which could pose a problem for big families, but Activities Director Mike Hansen said the district is limited by the amount of space in the lot. At a checkpoint near the parking lot entrance, district staff will hand the family a sign with their student’s name.

A stage and outdoor screen will be set up along the western wall of the school. Just as in previous years, a video presentation will show students as babies and seniors. Then seniors will exit their cars, hand their index card to an administrator so their name can be called, walk across the stage and grab their diplomas, though those might have to be picked up off a table.

Providing that symbolic element was important to administrators.

“They can say they walked across the stage for their senior year graduation,” Tisi said.

For family members who don’t fit in the one allotted car, the district will livestream the event. District officials also hope to offer audio on KHOL, Hansen said, but that isn’t confirmed.

Parents asked several questions of Hansen and Tisi: Could they have their windows down or would they need to idle to run the fan if the day is hot? How long would the ceremony last?

In response, Hansen said he preferred no idling and would check with the Teton County Health Department on the window status, as the department has to approve the particulars. As for time, he will walk the parking lot before graduation to estimate how long it might take for 193 students to walk it.

Parents also wanted to know if inclement weather would postpone the event.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes,” High School Principal Scott Crisp said. “Whether it’s snowing that day, or it’s sunny that day, or rainy that day, or windy, it’s not gonna matter.

“We’re gonna make it happen.”

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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