Folk artist Grandma Moses once said, “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”
The new way of life brought on by the coronavirus has been difficult on many, but Bayard Public Schools is trying to make the best of it for its Class of 2020.
“It is important to honor and celebrate our students every year, and this year, it is especially important,” Bayard Public Schools superintendent Travis Miller said. “This year has been such a challenge for all of our students and their families, and especially for the seniors.”
COVID-19 led to a sudden closure of schools. Instead of going to prom, walking across the stage and hugging classmates before saying goodbye, seniors moved into digital classrooms, have had to stay separated from their friends and have missed out on milestone moments.
“The disappointment has been palpable with all of the ‘lasts’ that parents and students didn’t get to share,” Miller said. “One of our seniors shared a comment with a staff member in early April that really hit me.”
According to Miller, the student said “I may have had my last day at Bayard High School and I didn’t even know it.”
“That turned out to be true,” Miller said.
Graduation ceremonies have been tentatively planned at some schools throughout the Panhandle. Bayard’s Board of Education wanted to find a way to recognize seniors in May. A later graduation may mean that some seniors can’t attend due to other obligations.
“Doing so within the health guidelines has certainly been challenging and not without controversy,” Miller said. “With many caring people, there have been a lot of different ideas about how best to honor the graduates.”
They settled on a few of those ideas. The first, a senior cruise down Main Street, took place on Tuesday. Banners recognizing students greeted them as they drove, thanks to a partnership with the City of Bayard. Seniors received another, smaller banner to display somewhere of their choosing.
Bayard schools partnered with Steph’s Studio and Sheep Creek Films to put together photo packages and a virtual production honoring the class.
Steph Mantooth, owner of Steph’s Studio, said she loves working with Bayard students as the district’s photographer, and knew this was a project she wanted to be a part of.
“I feel for the seniors that had so many of their ‘lasts’ taken away from them because of COVID-19,” she said. “Hopefully a few special ‘firsts’ will make up for it a little bit.”
She spent 20 hours over the course of two days traveling and taking photos. There were more than 3,700 photos and so many hours of processing that she lost track.
While she did get paid for the project, that wasn’t the reasoning behind it, she said.
“I felt honored to be there and experience the whole experience with them,” She said. “It was awesome to see them have the spotlight for 30 minutes and be a star”
Each graduating senior is expecting to get upward of 60 photos a piece taken during their photo-shoot. Additionally, Mantooth carefully created a composite class photo.
The photo-shoots took place alongside the filming of the virtual graduation ceremony. The production was broadcast live on Saturday afternoon, but a recording is available for viewing on www.bayardpublicschools.org. The video is available here.
Graduates and their families will also have the opportunity to watch the production on Monday night during a drive-in event at Legacy of the Plains. Space is limited and graduates were given tickets for their guests, along with their diploma, award certificates and their personal banner.
“After all the hard work by so many people, I am excited for our students to be highlighted on the big screen in a way that complies with health regulations and allows us to celebrate the class of 2020,” Miller said.
Additionally, the Class of 2020 will be the first to be honored with an alumni lapel pin. The awarding of the pin will become a new tradition.
Miller said the district intends to hold an additional in-person ceremony when restrictions allow for mass gatherings.