The Grad Outdoors

Local schools scrambled to hold outdoor graduations, with everyone just happy to be together.

After a year and a half of students, parents, teachers, and administrators struggling to deal with the pandemic, virtual and hybrid schooling – the light at the end of the tunnel was a bright blue summer sky. For Philadelphia School District students and parents looking forward to the big moment, graduations were held in person earlier this month for kindergarten, 8th grade, and seniors. Kindergarten students at Roosevelt Elementary School had their graduation on June 7.

Still, like all things summer, the weather temporarily puts a kink in the plan for much of the school district.

The district only announced that graduations would be held in person at the last minute, with limitations on attendance. Parents and relatives of students who wanted to attend were limited to two people per student, with Google Meet classrooms set up to act as a spillover for those who couldn’t make it in person.

After more than a year dealing with the pandemic, Philadelphia kindergarten students are able to graduate in person.

“We did know what we were going to do with Move Up Day with the pandemic, social distancing, masks, and the whole situation. We only found out a week ago that we were going to be able to do it in person but that it was going to have to be outside,” said Ms. Glass, Parent Coordinator at Roosevelt Elementary School. “It just so happened that I had ordered things for the kids, and we were going to send them to the students’ homes, and it worked out. God is good.”

“The teachers put this all together themselves. We provided the logistics, Ms. Thomas and Ms. Elliot just stepped up, got it all together in a week. We’re really big on teamwork here at Roosevelt. So we worked as a team this morning to put it all together,” said Mr. Hayes, Principal at Roosevelt Elementary School.

Roosevelt’s two kindergarten classes gathered in the lunchroom ahead of the ceremony to practice prepared remarks given by the students, and an adaption of “I’m Gonna Push Through” by Jasmyn Wright.

While Ms. Thomas and Ms. Eliot got the students ready in the lunchroom, parents took their seats in front of the school.

Finally, the big moment for everyone, Ms. Elliot led her kindergartners out to take their places as the center of attention, followed closely by Ms. Thomas’s class.

“It’s like herding cats,” one of the parents whispered, with a giggle as everyone gave a round of applause for these students who pushed with a unique and challenging kindergarten year.

Once the students were in place, Mr. Hayes thanked students, parents, and teachers for their patience during a school year that was frustrating for everyone. Virtual learning required parents to become unpaid teachers’ assistants. The challenge of virtual learning left parents working with their students on things like handwriting. It made other aspects such as letter and word pronunciation difficult for teachers.

“Some things you just can’t do online, like handwriting, and letter pronunciation. It’s difficult for teachers to read their students lips to make sure it’s being pronounced correctly,” said Mr. Hayes. “We’ll have some intervention teachers next year, a children’s literacy program, a math intervention teacher to support our students with those academic loses. We’re keeping our three councilors next year as extra support for them.”

Ms. Elliot and Ms. Thomas handed out awards for excellence in leadership and perfect attendance.

Students performed an adaption of “I’m Gonna Push Through,” led by Ms. Thomas. Students mimed the lines as they were read by Ms. Thomas, repeating the chorus.

“I’m so excited that they were able to put this all together for the kids, they finally got to meet their friends and teachers that they’ve been seeing online for the past year, I just really think this is a great thing,” said Samirah, a parent of one of the students.

Some students will have to have their graduation in mid-June. The extreme heat and storms of the early summer caused some disruptions, but most students will be able to graduate in person.

All photos courtesy of Cory Clark (Lawless Media LLC)

 

About Cory Clark 8 Articles
Cory Clark is a Photojournalist and writer focused on Human Rights and other social issues. His work can be found in hundreds of media outlets from Philly Magazine to Fortune. He has been a long time freelancer for Getty Images, The Associated Press, and Association French Presse. Cory, his wife, and son are residents of East Germantown.

1 Comment

  1. I didn’t even see when this went up. I’m so proud of John, all his Roosevelt Elementary Kindergarten buddies, all of the other awesome students who went through so much over the last year and all the teachers and administrators who helped them through it!

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