KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown's announcement on Wednesday that Oregon schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year put an end to hopes that high school seniors would be able to graduate with the accustomed pomp and circumstance, even if they receive diplomas on schedule.
According to the Klamath County School District, a viral movement around the country is helping schools to honor the Class of 2020 regardless.
Bonanza senior Oak Tenold poses under the stadium lights April 7 at Bonanza Junior/Senior High School (courtesy KCSD).
Stadium lights turned for #BeTheLight April 8 at Mazama High School (courtesy KCSD).
"Classrooms are dark, but community care for students burns bright, KCSD said in a statement. "That is the message of 'Be The Light,' a movement that is lighting up athletic stadiums across the country, including at high schools in Klamath County’s two school districts."
"Be the Light" encourages schools to light up their stadiums at 8:20 p.m. (20:20 in military time), with community members encouraged to turn on their front porch lights to join the tribute.
“It's a message of hope and support,” said Klamath Union principal Tony Swan. “We want students to know they are in our hearts and minds. We begin at 8:20 to pay special tribute to the class of 2020.”
In addition to Klamath County and Klamath Falls City schools, Phoenix-Talent Schools said that it will observe a similar ceremony, though many schools are doing things just a bit differently.
"We want all of our students in the Phoenix-Talent School District to know how important they are to us and that we care for each and every one of them," Athletic Director Dave Ehrhardt said.
At Phoenix High School's Jack Woodward Stadium, the lights will go on every Friday night at 8:20 p.m. through June 12. They'll be keeping the lights on "for one minute of each school day lost during this pandemic."
Grants Pass High School will turn on the Mel Ingram stadium lights at 8:20 p.m. on Friday for 20 minutes, the district announced.
"As we all go through the COVID-19 pandemic, may the lights be a beacon of hope," the district said in a post. "Please feel free to drive-by and show your support. We ask that you continue to be mindful of social distancing guidelines."
Klamath Union and Mazama high school stadiums will also light up every Friday night, but for 20 minutes and 20 seconds. Henley High School will do the same with its tennis court lights, which are visible from Highway 39.
Bonanza and Lost River high schools will light up their stadiums on every night that school would have been in session — leaving the lights on for one minute for every graduating senior. The lights will remain on for 41 minutes at Lost River and for 27 minutes at Bonanza.
“It’s important for our seniors to know that they are celebrated and that we are extremely proud of their accomplishments,” said Lost River principal Jamie Ongman. “These seniors are missing a lot of events and activities because of the pandemic, however their efforts and accomplishments are not less than classes that had all these events. Students have done the work to reach this point, and now it’s our turn to figure out ways to celebrate.”
Bonanza principal Jordan Osborn chooses a member of the Class of 2020 to turn on the lights each night, with a picture taken of the senior on the field then posted to the school's Facebook page.
Chiloquin Junior/Senior High School will turn its stadium lights on for 30 minutes at 8:20 p.m. every Wednesday. The school’s #BeTheLight campaign on different nights will honor specific seniors, all students and spring sports.
Gilchrist Junior/Senior High School in far northern Klamath County does not have stadium lights, but community members are asked to support the school’s Class of 2020 by turning on porch lights at 8:20 p.m. for 20 minutes and 20 seconds.
"Community members are reminded to follow the governor’s stay home orders and not to congregate near athletic fields.," KCSD said.