FRUITPORT TWP. — While most schools across Michigan are playing a wait-and-see game in regards to graduation, Fruitport Calvary Christian held its ceremony as planned Friday night.
“The Friday after Memorial Day is when we do commencement,” said the school’s principal/administrator, Tom Kapanka. “Once the stay-at-home order went way into June, I told the seniors, you’re not going to do an indoor commencement. ... Let’s do this outdoors. We’ve never done it outdoors before, but we’ll be creative, make it work and make it something you’ll never forget.”
So, Friday night, 13 of Calvary Christian’s 14 graduating seniors gathered at the school. They stood 15 feet apart, with their family and friends watching from their vehicles.
The one missing senior was Matt Anderson, who enlisted in the Marines and was shipped out to Parris Island, South Carolina, last week.
There were the normal speeches that make up most graduation ceremonies, and students walked forward – one at a time – to pluck their diploma off a table.
“We’ve engineered this whole thing so nobody intersects with anyone else,” Kapanka said. “There’s a tradition where seniors present a rose to their mom, and a scroll, which is a note they’ve written to their dad. We wondered how that could be done this year, but then, they’re already in that house with their parents, so they’re going out to present that around the (school’s) flag pole.”
Kapanka said a ceremony like the one they held Friday would be nearly impossible for a large school like Grand Haven to pull off.
“But there’s little Class D schools all over the state who have enough lawn on their campus to pull something like this off – and it brings some closure,” he said. “We decided, let’s do this big, because while I wouldn’t say they’re depressed in a clinical state, every high school and college senior feels like they’re missing something. High school graduation is like a coming-of-age moment.”
Similar to restaurant owners in northern Michigan who have been able to open their doors to customers, with some social-distancing measures in place, local restaurants may soon be able to expand their dining areas outdoors.
During recent Grand Haven City Council and Grand Haven Township Board meetings, outdoors dining was unanimously approved.
“(Township Supervisor Mark) Reenders suggested a way to help restaurant owners,” Township Manager Bill Cargo said during the Township Board meeting.
The board then approved bypassing the normal hearing process in favor of administrative approval for outdoor dining.
With seating being outdoors, restaurant owners are better able to ensure tables are placed at least 6 feet apart as part of the social-distancing guidelines in place to help curb the spread of coronavirus.
In the city, a request was made by the owner of Snug Harbor for seating in the front and back of the building, City Manager Pat McGinnis said in a memo to the City Council.
“When the economy opens back up, our restaurant businesses may be fighting with one arm tied behind their backs for the rest of the summer,” he said.
McGinnis noted businesses hoping to utilize outdoor seating would need to receive different approvals, and that moving quickly could be important. Approvals include concurrence of the city manager, public safety and public works directors, as well as from the city’s planning and zoning boards, Michigan Liquor Control Commission, and the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.
Authorizations for outdoor seating would expire on Oct. 31, 2020.
“We will all need to be flexible to achieve a healthy environment in which these businesses will have a fighting chance at making a profit,” McGinnis said.
On Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted Michigan’s stay-at-home order, letting restaurants reopen to dine-in customers beginning June 8 and immediately easing limits on outdoor gatherings while keeping social-distancing rules intact.