An outdoor graduation ceremony in Jewell on June 12 will feature six in-person graduates and one cardboard cutout.
The small school’s seventh senior is already gone — he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and is off to training. The school district took a picture of him in cap and gown before he left so he could still stand with his classmates for commencement.
Last year, North Coast seniors saw their dreams of a triumphant and highly social conclusion to their high school years dashed as the coronavirus pandemic closed schools abruptly in March. Traditional events were canceled and graduation itself was a strange affair conducted at distance, in face masks and, in many cases, in the family car.
When this school year began, the Class of 2021 had the benefit of knowing nothing would be normal.
Some started to plan their next steps earlier. In Astoria, older students, including seniors, took on part-time jobs because they could be more flexible with their online classwork. In Jewell, seniors hit graduation requirements by February and many started taking college-level classes with the school district’s support.
“It was real evident from our seniors that they were ready to move on,” said Jon Wood, the Jewell School principal.
“They didn’t quite have it all,” he added. There was no senior prom, no homecoming. “But they had quite a bit and we’re going to try to make it as good a party for them as we can on the 12th.”
Some schools are planning for a return to more traditional graduation ceremonies in June, but are hedging their bets as the pandemic continues.
Astoria High School has several plans in place depending on the county’s risk level by the time the June 5 commencement arrives.
The number of guest passes each graduate is allowed will be based on whether the county is at a low, moderate or high-risk level. If the county moves into extreme risk, only 100 people will be allowed inside CMH Field, where the commencement and awards ceremonies will be held.
As of Tuesday, Lynn Jackson, the principal, was hopeful. Regardless, the ceremony will unfold “in a much more open manner” than last year’s graduation, he said.
Last June, Astoria graduates spent much of the ceremony in their cars. The ceremony itself was a sort of hybrid, rolling several traditional pieces of the usual festivities into one socially distanced event. This year, graduates will enjoy a number of activities that the Class of 2020 had to forgo, including a senior breakfast, a grad walk and a more traditional commencement ceremony.
Masks and some social distancing will still be required. Like other school districts, Astoria plans to provide a livestream of the graduation ceremony.
Because of the uncertainty about what may or may not be possible under state pandemic guidelines leading up to graduation, but also because of interest from students, Seaside High School opted to go with the same drive-thru, parade-style ceremony it held last year.
On June 10, graduates will arrive by car at the new high school then proceed to the Turnaround at the end of Broadway for their diplomas. The ceremony will conclude at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center parking lot.
The Warrenton-Hammond School District is also following last year’s script. Graduates will celebrate on June 11 with a vehicle procession from the Hammond Marina and through downtown to a drive-in ceremony.
Unlike last year, though, some pre-graduation ceremony traditions are able to return: There will be a homecoming week this year, as well as a homecoming carnival.
Knappa School District opted for an outdoor ceremony. Physical distancing and capacity requirements will still apply, but masks are optional. Seating will be designated by family.
The ceremony, which will take place on June 12, will also be broadcast on demand.