Barnsdall to have May 15 graduation; Pawhuska to wait until June 26

Robert Smith

The Barnsdall and Pawhuska school districts are taking different approaches to graduation planning. Barnsdall is scheduled to move ahead with a graduation parade on May 15, while Pawhuska has chosen to wait until June 26 to see if it can hold a traditional outdoor graduation ceremony.

These differing decisions are products of the ongoing efforts of communities across the nation to respond to the COVID-19 health crisis in ways that reflect both concern about the health and well-being of citizens, and a desire to honor the academic achievements of students.

At 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 15, Barnsdall High School’s 2020 graduating seniors will take part in a motorized parade from the Gilbert Fieldhouse on campus into the municipal downtown, where the graduates will receive their diplomas.

Principal Sayra Bryant said via email that the graduates will stay inside their vehicles. Bryant said she will meet the students at their vehicles, which will stop in front of the Barnsdall Community Center marquee on Main Street. Barnsdall Public Schools has hired a photographer to capture images of the diploma presentations.

“We ask that everyone allow for the immediate family of the graduates to park near the community center,” Barnsdall Public Schools said on a publicly distributed flyer. “This includes the post office, Feed Depot and surrounding area.”

Parade attendees are encouraged to bring signs, honk their horns and flash their lights. Businesses are encouraged to decorate their premises. The ceremony is to be broadcast on the radio, via KPGM 1500 AM.

In Pawhuska, the local school district last week issued a written announcement that it has chosen to reschedule its graduation from May 15 to June 26. The district said the ceremony would be scheduled for 7:30 p.m. June 26 at Ormond Beach Memorial Stadium.

“The new date is contingent on all bans being lifted by the state in time for the event to take place,” Superintendent David Cash said in the announcement. “Given this year’s unprecedented disruption, the class of 2020 will definitely go down in history as having the most memorable of graduation ceremonies.”

Pawhuska Public School also acknowledged that safety measures for large public gatherings may still be in place by late June, and noted that plans will be made to hold a “virtual type graduation” if the outdoor ceremony at the stadium is not possible.

“A virtual graduation is not our preference,” Cash said. “We just need to have an alternate plan in place should it become necessary.”

Cash told the Journal-Capital that the school district made the decision about the postponement of the graduation after consultation with parents.

“I talked to some parents who have seniors,” Cash said. “The parents really want that traditional graduation.”

He added that the state of Oklahoma told public school districts they could not have such gatherings at all before June 1, and he acknowledged it’s hard right now to tell what’s probably going to be happening a month from now.

Barnsdall High School will honor four valedictorians at its May 15 parade graduation. They are Jessica Green, Chance McGill, Kyndal LeFlore, and Jaydon Mackey. All have grade-point averages higher than 4.0.

Pawhuska High school will honor a valedictorian, a salutatorian and an honor graduate. Shelby Bute is the valedictorian, Sarah McNeil is the salutatorian and Alyssa Reynolds is the honor graduate.