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Parading for the Rifle High School seniors

Rifle High School hopes to honor Class of 2020 with a processional through town to celebrate their achievements

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With in-person schooling and all spring events and sports scrubbed for the year, Rifle High School administration and staff are working on plans to provide some much-needed closure for the seniors as they prepare to set out on their lives after high school.

Rifle Principal John Arledge said the pandemic has caused a lot of students to feel apprehension and loss.  

Arledge said he knows students would like to be having all of the fun associated with graduation, including senior trips, awards banquets, visiting elementary schools and more, but they understand that they have to follow guidelines that protect the public health and safety of residents.

“Our students and staff are wanting to come back to school and get back into our regular routine of how we do what we do. That being said, most students and staff feel like there has not been closure to the school year and especially our senior class of students,” Arledge said.

The school and its staff wanted to do something to celebrate seniors and the school community on May 16, the planned graduation day for the Bears, Arledge said.

“Our hope is still to have a real graduation, but at this time with restrictions and limits of social gatherings, we thought some type of celebration was necessary and right during this time. This is just a celebration prior to what we hope is our real graduation later in the summer,” he said.

Working with the Principals Council, which Arledge said is made up of a variety of seniors and juniors, they polled the seniors on what they envisioned for graduation. Eighty-six percent of the class of 2020 wanted to try and have a real graduation later in the summer over a virtual graduation.  

“We are honoring them with this by trying to wait out the social distancing requirements and the impact that COVID-19 has put on our school, state and nation. The voice of our students and their parents are overwhelmingly wanting a real graduation, and we are hoping for that to happen,” Arledge said.

Principal Arledge and the school have submitted a parade permit, and are waiting for the OK from the Rifle Police and Health departments.

If approved, Arledge said the students will decorate their cars, and parents and friends can watch the procession from safe social distances to cheer and clap their seniors on a celebration day. Parents could line Railroad Avenue, staying in their vehicles, and cheering on their graduates.  

“I think that the Rifle PD and the health department are concerned about the social distancing and keeping the public safe. We are doing all we can to keep those protocols, but it is hard when people want to see these seniors and cheer them on,” Arledge said.

For Arledge and Rifle High School, social distancing is a priority and they are ready to follow any directives to help keep the public and our students as safe as possible.

RHS is projecting that 174 students will earn their diplomas this year. Arledge said students are still working to complete all of the requirements of the district and state standards.

“The district and the staff have done an outstanding job in creating a learning platform that didn’t exist two months ago. All of our classes and teachers are teaching their classes with a Google platform,” Arledge said.

New Garfield School District Re-2 superintendent Heather Grumley said the district has learned that when necessity calls, they can be nimble and flexible.

“I hope that the class of 2020 knows how deeply they are cared about by their teachers, principals and the staff of Garfield Re-2 — the lengths that our staff will go to make sure as many of their needs are met as possible,” Grumley said.

Despite everything going on, Arledge hopes they can make graduation as normal as possible.  

“We also know that stipulations may be placed on this graduation like no other year for example, the number of people that can attend, students only, students and parents only, etc.  But it is still in our best hopes that we will have a real graduation on our football field this summer to honor these wonderful seniors and have a proper send off to the next chapter in their life,” Arledge said.

Residents and people traveling through Rifle in the middle of the week may have noticed the display of solidarity and school spirit as the lights of the football field ignite the western Garfield County sky for around a half hour each Wednesday night.

“We want to keep that strength going, and this is just a small token to let all of our kiddos know that we are thinking of them, wanting the best for them, and hoping to be with them soon again,” Arledge said.

“The lights on Wednesday night is a sign of RHS being ’Bear Strong.’”

kmills@postindependent.com


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