With four weeks left until graduation, Spokane Public Schools is running out of options on how to send off the class of 2020.
Late Tuesday afternoon, citing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office told the district to scrap its plans for commencement ceremonies at Albi Stadium.
Two weeks after proposing the idea to Inslee, district Superintendent Shelley Redinger got the bad news late Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Redinger, who was told by a gubernatorial aide that Inslee doesn’t expect larger gatherings will be feasible, even as the state begins to phase toward normalcy.
Smaller schools might be able to hold outdoor graduations next month, but not the larger ones, Redinger was told.
Redinger said she expected to receive more guidance this week from the governor’s office.
“But we are still looking at creative ways to honor our seniors,” Redinger said.
That process is expected to continue at the board of directors meeting Wednesday night.
With some senior traditions already wiped out by social distancing rules, the idea of an outdoor graduation had gained traction among students and educators.
At Shadle Park High School, a petition calling for an outdoor graduation picked up more than 1,000 signatures within 24 hours.
“These seniors have already lost a lot,” Ferris High School Principal Ken Schutz said Monday as he watched a local artist paint the names of the Class of 2020 on the school’s football field.
Last month, the school put up yard signs at the homes of each senior, hoping to mitigate the loss of proms, yearbook signings and spring sports.
“It would be nice to have an outdoor ceremony,” Schutz said Monday. “We know our kids want to be together.”
Now that’s unlikely.
It’s also unclear how the district will proceed.
Shawn Jordan, the district’s director of secondary schools, said recently the district was pursuing other options, including a virtual graduation or perhaps a walk-through at each high school gymnasium.
No matter what form it takes, Jordan said, it’s important to “honor and celebrate our students who have completed their K-12 experience. We want to continue to do that in some way.”
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