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Senior ceremonies back on schedule, set for June 25


Paul Mihalko and John Bowers played it for laughs in the photograph that appeared on the Twitter feed of Monongalia County Schools last week.
Never mind that one mugging moment, though, for the two administrators at Morgantown High.

Milhalko is principal of the historic school on Wilson Avenue, and Bowers is an assistant principal.

They were spied in the bleacher seats at Pony Lewis Field — Bowers used to prowl its sidelines as head football coach.

Pony Lewis is literally the center of MHS.

Like a massive LEGO build, the school’s very structure encompasses the field.

Three weeks from now, on June 25, the MHS Class of 2020 gets to reclaim its social, rite-of-passage center from a pandemic that put everyone in detention.

Graduation ceremonies are scheduled to take place on the turf at 6 p.m. that day, which is a Thursday.

(No) class clowns

University High and Clay-Battelle are also set to send their seniors forth at that same day, and that same time, on their football fields.

Mihalko and Bowers were having fun with a furring strip, an instrument used to keep building construction uniform.

One end sat on the principal’s shoulder.

The assistant principal lent his shoulder for the other end.

It was one row up, and one thumb’s up, from Mihalko, who acknowledged the strip’s precise, 6-foot span.

No “Gentlemen’s C” on this one, said Donna Talerico, Mon’s assistant superintendent of schools.

“It has to be exact,” she said.

As in, exactly exact.

Which actually made the principal and assistant principal’s work quite serious.

“We have to do everything in accordance with the health department,” Talerico said.

A contractor implement to measure a social-distancing mandate isn’t a stretch, she said.

That’s because the district is building a COVID-19 commencement structure, she said.

From the ground up.

“And we keep having to add to the plan.”

COVID cap and gown

There are daily meetings, she said, and full compliments of people gridding out the plan.

Where to stand. Where to sit.

Where to enter, and where to exit.

“We probably have 25 people working at each school right now,” she said.

The district also laid in 3,000 face masks and copious amounts of hand sanitizer for safety and prevention.

Salvage at least one part of senior year, she said, while staying safe from COVID-19.

The district notched around 850 seniors at Mon’s three public high schools this year, Talerico said.

She doesn’t yet know how many will attend their respective ceremonies, as the RSVPs are still going out.

Those arriving in cap and gown may bring two guests, Talerico said.

For the seniors

Other virtual elements will be patched in, she said.

The choir of Morgantown High, for example, performed a multi-screen, Zoom-styled rendering of their school’s alma mater, which will play at Pony Lewis during the ceremony.

“I’ve seen it and heard it,” Talerio said, “and it is spectacular.”

The only thing left now, she said, is (hopefully) spectacular weather for Mon’s collective class of 2020.

Mother Nature’s scattershot meteorological output is nowhere near as level as furring strip, the assistant superintendent said.

“That weekend, we have rain days slotted through Sunday,” she said.

“Of course, we’re going to hope it doesn’t rain. Fingers crossed.”

Maybe she can get Mihalko and Bowers to shoulder the weather report.

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