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Paradise High School prepares for another non-traditional graduation

Principal Michael Ervin said they want to make it special because the seniors have “been through way too much.”

PARADISE, Calif. — Another year has passed in Paradise and the graduating high school class will again have a non-traditional ceremony. 

Last year, it was due to fire recovery. This year, it’s a worldwide pandemic preventing crowds from gathering, even if it is for one last hurrah to close out the academic year.

Michael Ervin, principal of Paradise High School, said he feels a special connection to this class, because he has a son in his senior year and he's also watched the students grow up over the years.

“These poor seniors,” said Ervin. “Through the fire last year and now the COVID[-19] this year, they’ve been through way too much.”

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Even talking about the subject is emotional for Ervin.

“We want to celebrate,” Ervin said. “We want to celebrate with these kids. They’ve worked hard…”

Ervin says Paradise High is working on a plan to make the graduates feel special.

“So our current plan - and I’ve not heard of any other plan similar to ours - is we’ve invited 10 graduates to set an appointment hourly,” said Ervin. “So, 10 per hour and bring 8 family members.”

The family members would all have to be from the same household and each group would be positioned far away from each other in the school stadium.

“The idea of having 10 kids graduate together means that they get to be with buddies,” said Ervin. “They get to be with friends. They have family and people to cheer them on.”

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Still, they would need to be socially distant at all times, but it is an attempt to create that togetherness, even at a distance.

“Obviously, we want to follow guidelines,” Ervin said. “We don’t want to break any rules. And of course, safety is our utmost concern.”

Annie Stearns, the athletic director at Paradise High, explained she knows the importance of rites of passage, because the school was dealing with it last year as well.

“I think it’s amazing,” Stearns said, regarding the plans Paradise High School is working on for its seniors. “I mean for us, we know how hard it was just to get on the field last year, and how positive it was for our community and everyone. So for us to be able to give them some type of graduation is huge.”

Stearns has a message for the graduating seniors.

“We’ve gotten through some really tough times together, and all it will do is just make them stronger and create a really strong community,” said Stearns. “And that they have so many other positive things to look forward to. This is just one other blip.”

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