Like Aspen, Basalt High School to hold drive-in graduation on May 30

Basalt High School’s seniors know how to handle difficult times. From the Lake Christine Fire in 2018 to the death of classmates Anna Cunningham and Tyler Ribich last year, changing up graduation amid the novel coronavirus pandemic is hardly a big deal.

“They have adapted well,” BHS principal Peter Mueller said Friday. “They have always been about caring for each other and they’ve always been about carrying a certain levity and reflection about what’s most important in life, and I think that’s what makes them a special class, is how gentle and thoughtful they are with each other.”

The latest hurdle came in the form of COVID-19, which brought an early end to in-person learning this spring and has forced the class of 2020 to adapt to a new normal as their high school careers come to a close. The BHS seniors finished up their final classes and exams Friday, meaning the only thing left to do is walk across the stage and graduate.

That graduation ceremony will happen next Saturday, May 30, although it will look a little bit different than it has. Much like other area schools are doing, including Aspen High School, BHS will hold a drive-in style graduation in the school’s parking lot at 9 a.m. that day, a change from the traditional ceremony on the football field. A stage will be set up in front of the school and the audience will remain in their vehicles and listen in on the radio.

The in-person attendees are being limited to students, immediate family and BHS teachers and staff.

“At first I was kind of nervous and a little bit upset, because obviously we don’t get the traditional graduation,” said BHS senior Sasha Brucker, who along with Anne Schrock is one of the co-valedictorians for the class of 2020. “But now I’m excited because I think it’s going to be something fun and different. It will definitely be a memorable graduation.”

Mueller said BHS is looking at 104 graduates this spring, a solid jump from the 89 official graduates in 2019. This year’s Longhorn seniors will pick up their caps and gowns Thursday, attend a graduation rehearsal Friday and then officially graduate the next day, albeit a little differently than would be the norm.

“They’ve been troopers at adjusting to challenges,” Mueller said. “We’ve tried to retain a lot of the traditions that have been a part of the spring of high school and the spring of senior year, so it’s been good.”

Basalt’s graduation, which is scheduled to last roughly 90 minutes, will overlap some with Aspen’s graduation, scheduled that same morning at Buttermilk Ski Area. The AHS ceremony had originally been scheduled for noon, but principal Tharyn Mulberry confirmed Friday it had been moved up to 10 a.m. to avoid the hottest part of the day and possible afternoon thunderstorms.

“That’s just too hot for graduation outside,” Mulberry said of temperatures that could push 80 degrees. “We are in the tent typically, so nobody notices it, because you can get some air through there. But they will notice it in a parking lot.”

Aspen’s graduation also will be akin to a drive-in movie and limited only to students, immediate family and faculty. Local big mountain skiing icon Chris Davenport is slated to be the commencement speaker, while senior Quinn Ramberg is the school’s valedictorian. The co-salutatorians are Kat Goralka and Maxine Mellin.

The AHS seniors also wrapped up school Friday, when they were able to pick up their caps and gowns.

“We had the best turnout for senior checkout we’ve ever had,” Mulberry said of the event organized by Danielle Pratt, the school’s head secretary. “She is so amazing. We had tents, it was outside, we were able to maintain social distance, we had gloves, we had masks. It was amazing how well our students complied with that.”

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