Schools Get Creative With Graduation Plans For Class Of 2021

Mar 16, 2021, 10:50 PM | Updated: 11:01 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Graduation for the Class of 2021 is still a couple of months away, but schools are already brainstorming ideas of how they’ll handle celebrations this year.

Last year, the pandemic forced schools to cancel traditional graduation ceremonies and the Class of 2020 had to get creative. Many schools held car parades and some even had celebrations on the ski lifts, while others held virtual celebrations.

“I will say there aren’t too many people who want to do a virtual graduation again. Those were nice and so much work went into them, but I don’t think anyone will shed tears if we don’t do that again,” said Lane Findlay, spokesperson for the Weber School District.

Going back to a pre-pandemic ceremony still isn’t possible, but this year, many high schools are trying to do something more traditional for graduation.

Jordan High School sent out a survey to parents and students. Should they do a car parade again? Or hold their graduation on the football field?

“It was 80% to 20%, so they overwhelmingly wanted a traditional ceremony,” said Wendy Dau, principal of Jordan High School. “The drive-through was a good compromise last year but it was clear that we wanted to go back to those traditional kinds of celebrations.”

There was no question — most students wanted a traditional ceremony, even if it meant holding two separate graduation nights.

“I feel like actually being able to sit there together and soak in, like, ‘Wow, we’re the graduating class of 2021,’ it’s more heartfelt, I feel like,” said Davion Washington, a graduating senior.

Jordan High will bring in extra bleachers for social distancing. Seniors can invite up to four guests each and students will choose which night to graduate, so they can walk across the stage on the same night as their friends.

“There’s been so many kids I’ve known since kindergarten and we just want to be together for one last time,” said Brooklyn Wagner, student body president.

“I think that’s the closest we’re going to get to normal this year,” said Michelle Dominguez, a graduating senior.

KSL checked with all the larger school districts in Utah. While many are still working on graduation plans, others are formulating ideas.

Like Jordan High, the Weber School District is planning to hold its ceremonies outside. So is the Nebo School District, which will have most of their graduations at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds. The Granite School District is planning a senior graduation night party. Students will have to take a COVID-19 test to attend.

A new building for Hillcrest High School is currently under construction and the old school will be completely torn down in June. That goes for the auditorium as well.

“This auditorium is unique. It’s one of the biggest in the state and it has some of the most famous productions,” said Hillcrest High Principal Greg Leavitt.

Hillcrest High is recognized across the country for performing arts, but a graduation ceremony has never been held in the auditorium. This year will be the first and last time graduates walk the stage. Since large groups can’t gather, seniors and their families will have staggered graduation times. It will be a special send-off for the Class of 2021.

“They deserve it. They’re remarkable students. Their resilience has been amazing. What other class has been through something like this?” said Leavitt.

Many schools are still planning graduation events like car parades. But because circumstances are changing so rapidly with vaccines and the mask mandate, many are holding off a bit longer to finalize plans.

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Schools Get Creative With Graduation Plans For Class Of 2021