The Class of 2020 will have the most creative graduation ceremonies in history, judging by the plans of North Olympic Peninsula public school districts.
Students have been studying at home since Gov. Jay Inslee shut down schools in March as a precaution against COVID-19.
Graduation plans under consideration include different ways to honor graduates and their accomplishments while maintaining social distancing.
Ultimately many of the school districts are waiting for further instruction from both the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Inslee’s office in regard to what kinds of commencement celebrations could be permissible under the “new normal.”
“The traditional picture of graduation we’re pretty certain is going to have to change,” Quilcene superintendent Frank Redmon said.
“As we get further down the road and we get more guidance from the governor and from the state superintendent in terms of what graduations might be able to look like, then we will have a more definitive picture of how we’re going to celebrate graduation.”
The Quilcene Class of 2020 has been meeting with district staff members each week to go over ideas for graduation, but the district is hesitant to specify any details should the ideas not come to fruition.
Chimacum High School principal David Carthum and other principals from up and down the Peninsula have met virtually to discuss graduation options.
Carthum noted that at least one school is holding out for a limited in-person graduation ceremony possibly later on in the summer, while other districts were considering virtual events and working with companies to put together graduation goody bags.
Carthum added that a parent group has been trying to put together ideas for graduation as well, but the ideas all require some form of gathering.
“Unfortunately some of the ideas all have an element of gathering, and that alarms me a bit, so we need to work through that,” Carthum said.
Port Townsend School District is looking at a hybrid of a car parade and virtual graduation for its seniors and even looking into trying to set something up at the Wheel-In Motor Movie Drive-In.
“Where we’re at right now is still solidifying plans,” Superintendent John Polm said. “We are still going to do the graduation in June. It will be June 12.”
“It’s going to be a combination of some sort of parade-type event where students are in cars.
“We have approached the owner of the local drive-in to collaborate on a way that we could maintain physical distancing and still have a way to celebrate,” he added.
The district is currently awaiting word from Jefferson County Public Health.
“We’re still about a week away from getting things approved and solidified,” Polm said.
A kind of graduation parade unlike any other for Sequim High School staff and boosters provided some cheer to the Class of 2020 as they handed out caps and gowns on Monday.
Donning protective masks and signs decked out in purple and gold, SHS staff members shared smiles and brief conversations with the Sequim seniors in the school’s front parking lot.
A Sequim High School graduation ceremony slated for early June will not take place, Superintendent Rob Clark said, and other annual senior-focused events — Scholarship Night, Senior Recognition pep assembly, Decision Day — also have been canceled.
However, administrators are looking for ways to honor the 200-plus member senior class for their years of school work.
The Port Angeles School district is leaning more toward virtual graduation as its Plan A.
“We are only in the beginning planning stages so things may change,” said Jennifer Sperline, the district’s communications coordinator.
Regalia for the virtual ceremony, planned for 7:30 p.m. June 12, was passed out to students Monday at the Port Angeles High School roundabout.
Students will be asked to submit photos of themselves in their regalia and holding their diploma cover along with candid photos that will be displayed in the first part of the virtual graduation.
Graduation speakers have been being asked to record their speeches prior to the ceremony as well.
Crescent School District has a graduating class of 20 and could hold an outdoor graduation ceremony while maintaining social distancing.
It’s the inevitable congregation of students afterward that worries Superintendent David Bingham.
“I think one of the most important things I want to do is making sure we are following both the spirit and the letter of the governor’s direction in terms of meeting,” Bingham said.
Forks High School parents and officials with the Quillayute Valley School District, including Superintendent Diana Reaume and City Attorney-Planner Rod Fleck, are seeking permission from Inslee to have a parade through town for high school graduation in lieu of formal graduation ceremonies, Fleck said Wednesday.
Graduation is scheduled for June 6.
Parades are not allowed under current COVID-19 restrictions, but Fleck said he is hoping that, within the next month, Clallam County will qualify under Inslee’s phased reopening plan.
“We’ve asked if this would be compliant under a Phase 2 approach,” Fleck said.
Under a tentative plan, families of graduates would be in a vehicle, start a route from a set location and end up at the high school, where the graduate would be handed a diploma through the window.
“We are trying to do what we can do and do it right, and make it something the kids have a memory of,” said Fleck, the parent of a graduating senior.
“This has been a little surreal,” he added.
Reaume said a survey of seniors found they would prefer to wait as long as possible, delaying it if needed to late summer, to see if the governor lifts the restrictions.
“If not then, we are hoping to honor them with a backup plan,” Reaume said. “We just aren’t sure what that looks like yet, if it will be a virtual ceremony or some type of drive-by with cars with seniors.”
Cape Flattery School District officials could not be reached for comment.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].