Salem-Keizer joins “Be the Light” movement

The lights at South Salem’s football field were turned on for 20 minutes on Friday, April 24 to honor the senior class of 2020 throughout the Salem-Keizer School District (Submitted).

The “Be the Light” campaign has gained significant traction across the state, and the Salem-Keizer School District elected to get in on the action starting on Friday, April 24.

Due to the spread of COVID-19, all district buildings will be closed for the remainder of the school year, meaning that the 2,666 seniors in the district won’t have a chance to have a final sendoff as they wrap up their lives as high school students.

To honor the class of 2020, the lights at South Salem High School’s football stadium will be turning on every Friday night at 8:20 (20:20 military time) for approximately 20 minutes. The district is also encouraging the community to turn their porch lights on in show of solidarity with this year’s seniors.

“We heard from our students, coaches and athletic directors that they really wanted to be part of the movement. It’s important to us to participate, but we want to make sure we do it in a safe way,” said Lillian Govus, the director of communications and public relations with Salem-Keizer Public Schools.

As the “Be the Light” movement made headway across the country, McNary athletic director Scott Gragg said he was receiving three to five emails per day about the matter.

“This isn’t only an Oregon movement, it’s a national movement. It’s a neat way to recognize every senior in the community, and it’s been gaining a lot of momentum,” Gragg said. 

However, the district made it clear that safety is the top priority, which is why instead of turning on all the lights at each high school football stadium, SKPS decided that it would best to only turn on the lights at South Salem High to represent each senior. 

Gragg cited that the reason that this decision was made was to discourage people from congregating at the schools and to keep in line with Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order to “stay home, save lives.”

South Salem was designated as the school to represent every senior in the district because they are the only high school with automatic lights — which can be turned on through an app on South Salem athletic director Brian Armstrong’s phone. 

“This makes it so no one has to go and physically turn on the lights and it becomes a lot easier to manage social distancing guidelines. We want people to stay at home and stay safe,” Gragg said. 

The district is asking students and families to stay home and not go and see the lights at the stadium. SKPS will be streaming the lights on their Facebook page. The district also encourages community members to take a photo in front of their lit-up porch and post it to social media using the hashtags #SKPSFamily and #BetheLightOR.