The logistics of conducting a graduation ceremony during COVID-19 restrictions have been a challenge for school districts, but the community of Highwood in Chouteau County pulled it off on Saturday afternoon.
Seven Mountaineers in the class of 2020 sat six feet apart. Seats on the field were reserved for clusters of family members, while other guests sat on the hill in small groups. Despite not getting a true rehearsal, it was a memorable afternoon. Highwood superintendent Jane Suberg said it made her emotional to see it come together.
“I'm seeing students that I haven't seen for nine weeks,” Suberg said. “I'm seeing staff members I haven't seen for nine weeks, even though we've had staff members in and out of the building through this time, but the building’s been closed for public use. So this is absolutely our coming out party.”
Suberg said after figuring out distance learning back in March, the immediate next step was to plan for graduation. Highwood’s small size as a Class C school made all of the difference in being able to follow Chouteau County Health Department guidelines.
“Because of the small scale, because of the numbers, I think it was easier for us,” Suberg said. “Now, that doesn't mean that the details weren't overwhelming, because there's just a lot of things that you can't control. You know, or hope you can control.”
Valedictorian Bryce Birgenheier and his classmates missed out on a lot of things this spring because of the pandemic, but there was still plenty to learn from the experience.
“It teaches you life's not going to be perfect in the future,” Birgenheier said. “And so you’ve got to learn how to deal with adversity. And so I guess we just got a jump-start on that and just going to have to deal with it. But we’re extremely blessed to have community members that will help out and put something like this together and I think it went really well."