ELKO – Elko High School’s class of 2020 will have a graduation celebration it won’t forget, thanks to the Elko City Council.
Nearly 90% of seniors voted to have a car parade through Elko on June 5 as a backup to the traditional commencement ceremony, should coronavirus restrictions still be in place at that time.
Seniors were presented with three options: an online ceremony, a reverse parade and a car parade.
The alternative backup plans were developed after schools statewide were closed on March 15 by order of Gov. Steve Sisolak, who extended the order in April. Social distancing guidelines preventing groups of 10 or more to gather in public places were also enacted by the emergency directives.
EHS Principal Tim Wickersham said the school has been striving to balance recognition of the senior class with the state directives imposed on public gatherings.
“We have been accused of ‘canceling’ graduation, and that is simply not true,” Wickersham said.
If the state gives the green light, a traditional ceremony could happen with 72 hours’ notice. However, it is a long-shot, he added.
About 280 seniors in a decorated vehicle will begin the parade at Adobe Middle School, driving down Fifth Street to Elm Street at 15 mph, ending at Warrior Field. They will then receive their diploma on a stage with their family nearby. It will be broadcast live on the radio by Elko Broadcasting Co.
“The benefits are that students can include their entire household in the ceremony,” Wickersham said. “They will walk across the stage and receive their diploma in person, all participating together as a group.”
Because a parade in Elko must be approved through the Elko City Council, Kim McKnight, representing EHS, explained the plan to the council, saying it could take about two-and-a-half hours to complete.
Police Chief Ty Trouten said vehicles would be released in groups of 50 to 70, which would allow for cross-traffic along busy Fifth Street.
Councilwoman Mandy Simons suggested her family could cover the parade fee, to avoid conflicts over other waivers in the future.
City Attorney Dave Stanton said he did not believe the council had the authority to waive the fee or to pay for it out of the City’s community donation fund.
Then other council members volunteered to chip in, including Mayor Reece Keener, who said former Mayor Chris Johnson would contribute as well. Stanton added his own $100 the pool.
“The Simons family will make up the rest,” Simons said.
“You guys are being very generous, and we really appreciate it,” McKnight said.
Despite how commencement will look on June 5, recognizing the graduates and bringing them together one last time is the school’s top priority, Wickersham said.
“There is the recognition of the time, effort, and dedication that these kids, their families, and their teachers have put in to achieve this important goal.”
Wickersham, who is an EHS alumnus and the father of EHS graduates, said he sees a deep significance of this particular graduation day for this class who are moving into adulthood in a world changed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“As adults who have been there, we know that these kids, who have seen each other grow from young children to young adults over the span of 12-13 years, all face the very real possibility that they may not see or speak to some of their classmates again,” he said.
“[This is about] the Class of 2020 all being together, doing one thing, one last time.”
Recognizing the graduates and bringing them together one last time is the school’s top priority, said Principal Tim Wickersham.
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