FORT KNOX, Ky. — Dylan Brumfield stood near the door to the Fort Knox Middle High School theater arts room, waiting his turn to walk across the stage and receive his diploma for graduation.
The senior stood alone in line, nobody in front or behind him. His mom stood on the stage, flanked by Principal Lonnie Gilmore and Vice Principal Luis Dominguez, and smiled as he walked toward the stage to receive his diploma from her. In the audience stood a sibling, photographer and videographer.
“I think we have managed pretty well given the circumstances, but we’re really heading toward the home stretch right now,” said Gilmore.
Gilmore and officials from Department of Defense Education Activity Americas said they have had to alter traditional graduation plans due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“The process has been different,” said Gilmore. “We’ve had to relook at the traditional graduation format and still try to preserve some of the ceremonial aspects while considering the health and safety of all the participants.
“What we’ve been able to come up with is something we believe will be a great alternative for our students that will leave them with something just as memorable but also observing the guidance for our restrictions that we have in place.”
That process includes videotaping every aspect of the graduation ceremony separately, to include the diploma presentation, moving of the tassel, speeches by the valedictorian and salutatorian as well as teachers’ presentations, Gilmore’s commencement speech, and even the national anthem.
The students received their caps and gowns early May 6 and began coming into the school one family at a time in 30-minute increments later that day to film their graduation ceremony. They will finish videotaping individual graduations by May 8, and all the other parts of the ceremony will be filmed May 11.
The company hired to capture all the elements of the graduation, along with final shout-outs by each of the students, will then put the pieces together into a complete ceremony, to be uploaded to the Fort Knox Middle High School Facebook page May 15 for everybody to enjoy.
On the same day, students and their immediate family members will parade in a convoy across a planned route on the installation, cheered on by families, friends and anybody else who wants to join in the celebration. Officials said the parade is set to begin at 5 p.m., with the graduation ceremony ready to view shortly afterward.
Prior to coming up with the plan, Gilmore said there was some angst and trepidation building among the Class of 2020 student body.
“For the most part, what we’ve been hearing from our students is that they’re happy that they’re still being given the opportunity to have a graduation ceremony all together,” said Gilmore. “That was probably the biggest fear that many of them had. This is a seminal moment in the lives of these young people.”
The procession will start east of the Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Maude Complex and move past Brooks Field, ultimately ending on Maine Street in front of Fort Knox Middle High School.
Gilmore said he is proud of each and every one of the 67 students set to graduate this year; a year that will be remembered by all involved for years to come.
“As you’re growing up and matriculating through school, graduation is that culminating event. It’s that thing that your grandparents come out to — your aunts and uncles,” said Gilmore. “It’s a rite of passage, so being able to have this ceremony was a relief for our students.”
Gilmore said the students’ last memory of their time in school will be riding past it as he and Dominguez call out each of their names, accomplishments and plans after graduation. The doors to the school will remain closed.
“This is something they can hang their hat on: that no other students who graduated here can say that happened here for their graduating class,” said Gilmore. “Our teachers and students have been cooped up in the house, doing digital learning, not really being able to see each other in the flesh.
“This gives our teachers an opportunity to come out, see our students and cheer them on, and our students a chance to see their favorite teachers.”
Editor’s Note: The parade is scheduled to occur rain or shine. Members of the Fort Knox workforce and community as well as family members are encouraged to line the parade route to cheer on the graduates as they pass by, adhering to all CDC and Fort Knox social distancing instructions. The route, along with recommended parking/cheering points, can be found here.