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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  K-12 education

Graduation at the Riverfront Park Pavilion was such a hit that Spokane Public Schools is considering it for next year, too

UPDATED: Thu., June 17, 2021

Shadle Park graduates enter their socially distanced graduation ceremony Saturday at the Pavilion at Riverfront Park.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Shadle Park graduates enter their socially distanced graduation ceremony Saturday at the Pavilion at Riverfront Park. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

The new normal is looking pretty good, at least when the subject is commencement at Spokane Public Schools.

By most accounts, last weekend’s graduation ceremonies at the Riverfront Park Pavilion were a big success, even though a few folks were sweating in the heat.

“We’ve had nothing but positive feedback,” said Shawn Jordan, the district’s director of secondary schools.

So positive, in fact, that the Pavilion could be the first option for future graduations.

For the second year in a row, the district was forced by the COVID-19 pandemic into some out-of-the-box thinking – that box being the Spokane Arena.

Barred from the arena last year by social-distancing protocols, students and their families piled into their cars and drove up to each school to get their diplomas.

Last year, students graduated in drive-by style as family members were able to get closer than ever as their graduate received a diploma.

Everyone exhaled with the expectation of going back to the Arena for 2021.

COVID-19 stuck around long enough, however, to force the district to improvise again. In the meantime, the Class of 2021 made it clear it wanted to celebrate as one student body.

That goal was accomplished with the choice of the Pavilion, though at the cost of limiting each graduate to two guests. That number was later expanded to four for grads whose guests had been fully vaccinated, while others watched the ceremony live streamed on large monitors set up at the Clock Tower.

“The venue is very beautiful,” Jordan said, adding that the only major problem was a lack of water as temperatures rose during Sunday’s ceremonies for Lewis and Clark and Ferris high schools.

“We had to adjust with the temperature and we had to scramble to get more water, but overall I think it went well,” Jordan said.

Comments were favorable.

“They should do this all the time,” one mother said during the Shadle Park graduation ceremony.

That could happen, said Jordan, who noted that the Pavilion can accommodate 5,000 people – easily meeting the needs of even the largest high school.

The schedule for 2022 envisions a return to the Arena, but that may get another look.

With the Arena located only a few hundred yards away, Jordan said, it could serve as the backup in case of bad weather.

“If we can partner with the (Spokane Public Facilities District), and look ahead at the weather but keeping outside as the first option, that’s a possibility,” Jordan said.

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