Seniors from Nile C. Kinnick High School celebrate during their graduation ceremony at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, June 8, 2018.

Seniors from Nile C. Kinnick High School celebrate during their graduation ceremony at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, June 8, 2018. (Maria Dumanlang/U.S. Navy)

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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — With high schools for U.S. military dependents throughout the Pacific region closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, school administrators are creating “virtual graduation ceremonies” as the traditional end to the school year draws close.

High schools are working with Department of Defense Education Activity-Pacific to craft plans for online ceremonies with optional video clips of seniors in caps and gowns edited into the production, according to a memo from Pacific South District Superintendent Jim Journey on Wednesday.

“This is of course because of the restrictions on large gatherings and the importance of social distancing,” he wrote to high school seniors and their sponsors.

Details behind the virtual graduation plans will be sent to students and parents in the coming days, Journey wrote.

Although Journey has responsibility for DODEA schools in Guam and Okinawa, schools in Japan and South Korea are included in plans for online graduations, said DODEA-Pacific spokeswoman Miranda Ferguson.

“[Graduations] might look different” in those school districts “based on local conditions,” she said without elaborating.

DODEA schools in the Japan and Okinawa districts have been shuttered since March 23 after which instruction moving online. DODEA director Thomas Brady announced last week that all schools in Japan, Okinawa and Guam would remain closed the rest of the school year.

He left open the possibility that those in South Korea could reopen briefly before the school year ends June 10. Those schools have been closed since Feb. 26 with instruction also online.

DODEA-Pacific is also encouraging schools to “be creative and think of ways to bring [students and families] together” for other types of alternative celebrations, Ferguson said.

At Okinawa’s two high schools, Journey said in his memo, the district is working with military bases for approval for a drive-thru graduation ceremonies.

The ceremonies will be recorded, and the videos posted online after they’re completed, the Okinawa district memo stated.

After the graduation videos are posted, “the concept is … we would have graduates and their families drive through the bus loops at the high schools to pick up diplomas and transcripts,” Journey wrote in the memo.

“We are working to add to the virtual experience,” he said.

One student from Kubasaki High School at Camp Foster, Okinawa, said that while she and her classmates are disappointed, they’ll make the best of the situation.

“We can all celebrate with our families after the chaos is over, but for now we will have to deal with what’s given,” said senior Tina Davis. “Of course, we wanted the traditional graduation, but due to the circumstances we will have to make the most out of what we have offered.” Twitter: @DaveOrnauer

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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