Ripon High School won’t hold its traditional graduation ceremony the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.

But members of the class of 2020 still will have the option of receiving their diploma that day from inside their vehicles.

Ripon High School announced today (Thursday) it will have a vehicle caravan Saturday, May 23 starting at 11 a.m. to honor those graduating seniors in an optional event.

The idea came from listening sessions regarding the 2020 graduation plans. According to the release, which was signed by Principal Randy Hatlen, more than 150 students and parents participated in the brainstorming sessions.

For those who would prefer the traditional graduation ceremony, the school also hopes to provide that at a later date after it is safe to do so and allowed by the state.

"Once the state and local governments lift restrictions to hold large events, the Ripon High School graduation ceremony will be held as soon as possible,” Hatlen said in the release. “This means we would have the ceremony 7-10 days after an announcement. If the graduation date is starting to be pushed too far into the summer or even early fall because of COVID-19 restrictions, the hope is we will be able to have some type of modified graduation ceremony for small groups.”

The release went on to acknowledge that there was some concern in the listening sessions that if the graduation ceremony date is pushed too far into the summer or fall, some graduates and families will no longer be interested or not be able to participate in a traditional or modified graduation ceremony.

“We understand that may be a concern for some families, but we want to still provide this as an option if possible for all those that want to attend,” Hatlen said.

Vehicle Caravan

The vehicle caravan will be similar to the #BeTheLightWI event that Ripon High School organized last month to honor the spring athletes who lost their season to COVID-19.

It will start with vehicles lining up at 10:30 a.m. at Murray Park and will end in Barlow Park, where each graduate will have the opportunity to receive their diploma.

“Whether the graduate receives his/her diploma is the decision of each graduate and their family,” Hatlen said. “Members of the Ripon Area School District Board of Education will hand out diplomas while graduates remain in their vehicles. All graduates receiving their diploma on May 23, 2020, are encouraged to also participate in any future traditional/modified graduation ceremony.”

The release went on to say that WRPN 1600 will broadcast the graduation ceremony while the caravan is taking place. The pre-recorded program will feature senior speeches, musical selections and announcement of graduates’ names.

Individuals will not be allowed to get out of their vehicles during the program to keep in line with the #SaferAtHome mandates and the practicing of social distancing.

Hatlen in the release noted “each county health department can set graduation parameters specific to the county’s circumstances” and that he “conferenced with Fond du Lac County Health Department Friday morning, May 1, 2020.”

“Following my conversation with a Fond du Lac County health official on our possible graduation activities, I received an email confirming a vehicle caravan to recognize our graduates on May 23rd was within the guidelines of our local county requirements,” he said in the release. “In addition, I have consulted with Dr. [Mary] Whitrock and Chief Bill Wallner of the Ripon Police Department who both endorsed the concept of the vehicle caravan to recognize the Ripon High School graduates. The Fond du Lac County health department official was adamant that getting out of the car is not an option for the graduates and/or their family members at any time during the vehicle caravan.”

He added the school is allowed “very limited staff to assist with directing vehicles and to hand diplomas to graduates in their car.”

Vehicle Caravan Timeline:

  • 10:30 a.m.: Meet at the Softball Diamonds at Murray Park
    Create a line of vehicles (one vehicle per graduate/family) behind the fire truck in one continuous caravan. (This is not a parade, rather a caravan.)
  • 11 a.m.: Ripon Fire Department Leads the Vehicle Caravan
    The caravan is starting at Murray Park, taking Sunset, right on Eureka, left on Oshkosh Street, right on Douglas, right on Fond du lac Street, slight left onto Sullivan, left toward the middle school, go all the way around the school past the high school gymnasium, left on Wenceslaus, left on Sullivan, left on Metomen, right on Griswold, ending at Barlow Park.
  • Immediately Disperse Following Caravan
    The vehicle caravan activity is not officially over until all graduates have left the park.

Caravan Rules of Participation

  • One graduate/family per vehicle; no motorcycles, mopeds, ATVs, etc. (For those who do not have access to a vehicle, email the office at obriens@ripon.k12.wi.us or call 748-4616)
  • The graduate should sit on the passenger side of the vehicle
  • Must stay in the vehicle at all times
  • Must stay in vehicle caravan line at all times
  • Vehicle lights/emergency flashers need to be on
  • This is a caravan, not a parade, so follow all traffic laws
  • Must disperse to home once school has honored graduates
  • Decorating vehicles is allowed, providing decorations are appropriate and do not impede with the operation of the vehicle.

Vehicle Caravan Expectations/Timeline:

  • Make sure appropriate behavior continues throughout the entire vehicle caravan out of respect for classmates, family members, friends, and guests in attendance. Attendees should understand this activity will be under a microscope, so individuals are asked to put their best foot forward. If someone does not cooperate, Ripon High School will address the situation, including possible police involvement. In addition, if the uncooperative person is a graduate, that person will not be allowed back for a potential future graduation ceremony.
  • Appropriate dress for the graduation activity is still caps and gowns. Orange & black tassel is worn on the right side of the cap. Once the graduate has received his/her diploma from a School Board member, he/she may move the tassel to the left side.