The Yakima School District is planning outdoor, in-person graduation ceremonies at Eisenhower High School’s Zaepfel Stadium for its high schools.
Eisenhower and Davis will have ceremonies at Zaepfel with COVID-19 safety precautions. Details for Stanton Academy are still being made, said district communications director Kirsten Fitterer.
Superintendent Trevor Greene said he was glad to be able to offer a ceremony to students.
“We’re excited to be able to recognize our graduating class, especially knowing that last year when we shut down, it was hard for our community, our parents and our students to not be able to recognize the class of 2020 the way that they deserved,” he said.
Last year, the more than 900 graduates from the three schools celebrated commencement with a prerecorded virtual ceremony specific to their school. School-specific celebrations and a district-wide procession of cars through town on graduation day were called off because of coronavirus stay-at-home orders. Yakima County was in Phase 1 of the state’s four-part reopening plan. Around that same time, the county had the highest rate of COVID cases per capita on the West Coast.
This year, the state is allowing for in-person celebrations following a set of safety guidelines, dependent on which phase of reopening a county is in. While counties statewide have progressed to Phase 3 of reopening, the state warned that districts should be prepared to move backward if cases in their respective community rise.
During a Thursday morning virtual news conference, state Deputy Secretary of Health Lacy Fehrenbach offered guidance for districts hosting in-person celebrations. Among them, she said venues would be required to have plans for staggered entry and exit of graduates and guests to prevent bottle-necking. The state recommends that people not shake hands with graduates and encourages no social gatherings or parties before and after the events.