CACHE — It might not have happened when anyone had initially expected or hoped. But Cache High School did indeed have a graduation ceremony with hundreds of guests in attendance.
And that’s more than many schools can say.
Guests arrived Friday night before the Ulrich Stadium gates even opened, huddling under umbrellas. Inside the school, seniors kept an eye on the windows as they got ready, checking to see if the storms would hold off.
In the end, they didn’t. After announcing a delay due to lightning, the administration announced at about 7:30 p.m. — the scheduled start time for the event — that there would be no graduation ceremony on Friday.
Instead, it was held Saturday. And while having a graduation rescheduled might seem like an inconvenience, it was just one more hurdle the class of 2020 has had to clear.
“For those seniors, so many things have been taken away from them because of (COVID-19), it’s nice for them to at least have this,” Brent Logan, father of graduating Cache senior Nathan Logan, said.
While most other schools held “virtual graduations”, Cache was set to become the first school in Southwest Oklahoma to hold a physical graduation ceremony with guests. And even though guests were seated six feet apart and even though it ended up getting rescheduled due to oncoming storms, the fact there was even a graduation in the first place was not something many thought possible even a month ago.
“I was expecting more of a virtual graduation, but I’m very happy we got to have a physical ceremony,” senior Ava Gladwell said.
While public places begin to reopen and on the same day it was announced that high school sports can resume June 1 in Oklahoma, guests gathered on Friday in a way that often resembled a pre-COVID world. Many guests did not wear masks. People interacted in fairly close quarters. It was as if there was no pandemic at all.
While many felt safe enough to behave in that way, most other school districts around the state did not share that sentiment, opting instead to not risk putting a large number of people in the same area. Cache was among the few to break rank.
“Was I surprised? Yes and no,” Alvin Cargill, who was there to watch his granddaughter graduate, said. “I think it’s a good thing for these kids. They work hard for 13 years, I think it’s important to recognize and honor their accomplishments.”
Principal Christy Taylor said that once Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt began allowing more and more businesses and events to re-open, she felt it was safe enough for the school could hold a live, in-person commencement, with safety protocols put in place.
“Once that happened, I felt more safe,” Taylor said on Friday night. “All the spectator seating is six feet apart, all the students will walk six feet from one another, as well as sit six feet from one another when they’re seated. And I won’t be shaking their hands, obviously.”
For the first time ever, guests did not sit in the bleachers, but rather on the field. The class of 131 seniors walked across the home bleachers, with each graduate accepting his or her diploma from Principal Taylor (who was wearing gloves). Among the other precautions, only 10 students could congregate at a time in a classroom as they got ready for the ceremony. That process itself, much like everything else, was not the same as in the past, as many students had not seen their teachers — or one another — since before Spring Break.
“It’s weird to see everyone,” Gladwell said. “I mean, I’m happy to see everyone, but it’s definitely surreal.”
Surreal is perhaps the best word to describe everything that seniors in the class of 2020 have gone through. And while it might have not been the spring they anticipated, it will certainly be one they don’t soon forget.
“It’s just been very unique,” graduating senior Kierce Franzen said. “It’s a big thing to happen, ya know, your senior year.”