SOUDERTON — While social distancing requirements brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have caused in-person events to be replaced by virtual activities for the most part, Souderton Area High School seniors will still have the chance to come back to the Lower Road campus in Franconia for part of this year's graduation celebration.
The Farewell Tour will be Saturday, May 30, with a rain date of Monday, June 1.
“We virtually met with students and asked what they wanted and the number one thing they wanted was to be able to come back to see their teachers and to feel like they graduated,” said Amy Tarlo, who with fellow Student Council Advisor Jen Granito and Senior Class Advisor Tara Weismantel, organized the Farewell Tour.
The tour, in which the students and families driving their vehicles will “circle the whole campus with fanfare and well-wishes,” will give them what they asked for, she said.
Many of the details are being kept secret at this point to be a surprise on the day of the event, but one of the things that students have been told is they will have the chance that day to be photographed in their graduation cap and gown.
Blank sign boards were also distributed to students and teachers to decorate and return to the school for the Farewell Tour.
“We'll put them up the day of the parade,” said Katie Boland, a building substitute who helped distribute the sign boards.
The signs will be all along the parade route around the campus, she said.
“Each kid is going to be able to bring a sign, or multiple signs, if they want, to represent themselves, so when they're driving through the Farewell Tour, they'll see things their family wrote to them,” Weismantel said, “or maybe they're gonna write a little message to one of their friends.”
While some school districts distributed signs to be placed on the yards of graduating class members, Souderton chose to go a different route and is giving a CARE package to each of the graduates, Tarlo said. The packages will be given to the students when they pick up their caps and gowns.
“We've created all kinds of surprises throughout to keep them excited and to let them know we love them,” Tarlo said.
“Our graduation at Souderton is awesome. It's super special and every teacher loves to be a part of it,” she said.
“We're really sad that they're not getting that,” she said of this year's graduates, “so we wanted to create something that allows them to feel special.”
Members of the community are encouraged to join in the day of celebration by doing things such as beeping their horns when they see students that day, Tarlo said.
Just as some of the details of the Farewell Tour or what's in the CARE packages aren't being revealed beforehand, not all the details are being given about what to expect in the virtual format presentations replacing other in-person end-of-year activities.
“I want it to be a little bit of a surprise,” said Souderton Area High School Principal Sam Varano.
“I'd rather they get the link and say, 'Oh, I didn't think they could do that,'” he said.
The virtual graduation, including each student's name being called and speeches by the valedictorian, salutatorian, student council president, school board president, superintendent and principal will be posted online June 9.
A traditional in-person graduation ceremony, minus the speeches, could also be held in July, but that will depend on the social distancing guidelines in effect at the time.
On May 27, this year's Scholars' Banquet, honoring the students in the top 5 percent of 11th and 12th grade, will be posted.
The presentation will be similar to other years, Varano said, but “obviously minus the dinner, minus the handshake from the guidance counselor and me, and the live audience.”
On June 1, the Senior Awards will be posted. The presentation will be very similar to the way the awards have been announced in previous years, district information says.
“The similar touches that make the program nice live will be included in the virtual,” Varano said.
The Senior Slideshow will be posted June 2. The slideshow is being created by students using photos submitted by their classmates, district information says.
The Virtual Spring Choral Concert has already been posted. Along with the sounds of school vocal groups, the video includes retiring Choir Director Teresa Washam listing student choral award winners for the year and thanking the students, community and district.
“I've always said that I have the best job in the world,” she said. “What's not to love about hearing talented singers singing all day long.”