High school graduation celebrations continue this weekend in Yakima County, wrapping up commencements for 2020 — at least until the county moves to Phase 2 of reopening.
The more than 900 graduates across Yakima School District campuses will have prerecorded virtual ceremonies released by Friday evening at the latest for viewing. Eisenhower, Davis, Stanton and Yakima Online have school-specific editions.
A procession of cars through town was called off to respect coronavirus stay-at-home orders. Yakima County remains in Phase 1 of a four-part reopening plan outlined by the state. The county has not progressed due to high COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations.
The Yakima district hopes to offer an in-person ceremony when the county moves to Phase 2, said Clinton Endicott, executive director of secondary schools for the district.
“We’re just trying to be good public health partners with the department of health,” he said. “We certainly want to try to get something put together, and fingers crossed that we can get something meaningful put together before kids go on to college… or whatever is the next phase of what they take on.”
Yakima Health District has not approved any local plans for drive-in or in-person high school commencement ceremonies. The state Department of Health guidelines only allow for in-person and drive-in graduation ceremonies in Phase 2 of reopening and above. Under Phase 1, people should not be gathering with others from outside their household.
Some community members have hosted unofficial graduation celebrations in-person, in spite of public health officials recommending against them. After a parent-led celebration in Selah Saturday, an attendee was confirmed to have COVID-19, according to the Yakima Health District.
The county is considered a hot-spot for the virus. More than 5,000 cases have been confirmed and more than 100 people have died of the respiratory virus in the span of three months. New cases have increased in recent weeks.
Most districts in the county have significantly pared back ceremonies in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus.
“It’s unfortunate that this time in our life is like this, but we’re not focusing on that,” superintendent of Mt. Adams School District Curt Guaglianone said. “We’re focusing on how proud we are of (our seniors)… We’re very, very proud of the work they’ve accomplished.”
Mt. Adams School District has released a video commemorating students, which can be viewed on the district websites. On Friday, celebrations will continue as a caravan featuring two school board members, the White Swan High School principal and vice principal, the district superintendent and teachers makes its way to each graduate’s house. From about 3-7 p.m., the group will deliver students’ diploma covers from a safe distance and honk and cheer for each of the roughly 50 graduates.
Across the county, Highland High School will release a virtual graduation ceremony on its school YouTube channel at 6 p.m. Friday. At 9:30 p.m., the senior class president will lead a live video broadcast of the turning of the tassel and cap toss, said high school Principal Brandon Jensen. A special fireworks show from the high school will immediately follow.
Also Friday, Granger School District will release a graduation broadcast at 7 p.m. on the high school Facebook page and the district website. A flyover video — featuring drone footage of each senior on the football field and around the community — will also be released on Facebook Friday. Yards throughout Granger also have signs commemorating students, the football field was painted with students’ names last week, and senior awards have been broadcast. Granger graduates can pick up their diplomas and an official transcript at the high school by appointment, beginning June 24.
Beginning Saturday morning at 8 a.m., graduates in Zillah will arrive at the high school by car to pick up their diploma and return school supplies like laptops. Students will have staggered arrivals stretching to 12 p.m. Dressed in full regalia, they will exit their car and pick up the diploma from a table. A quick photo will be taken before they return to their car to leave. Family members must remain in the car and social distancing will be practiced.
That evening at 6 p.m., a cruise through the city of Zillah will be held, beginning and ending at the middle school. Graduates and their families must remain inside the car, and the community is asked not to congregate.
Also Saturday at 10 a.m., East Valley graduates will have their pre-recorded commencement ceremony with speeches and a slideshow released. Beginning at 6 p.m. an evening cruise down Beaudry Road will begin, with graduates in caps and gowns making their way past teachers lining the roads, following social distancing and mask-wearing procedures. The district has asked that members of the public do not line the streets and that family members remain in the car with graduates with windows rolled up. Diplomas, end of year awards and a special 2020 lapel pin will be mailed to East Valley graduates.
In Grandview, a graduation video including speeches from the Valedictorian, Salutatorian and class speaker will be released on Saturday at 7 p.m. on YouTube, Facebook and the district website. Pictures of each of the district’s 245 graduates will be included. Banners celebrating each graduate have also been posted along fences on Second Street in Grandview, and friends and family have added balloons to recognize the graduates.
Naches Valley graduates will join a drive-thru graduation ceremony beginning at noon Saturday. After driving up to the school with immediate family in the car, the graduate will walk across a stage in front of the high school to receive their diploma before returning to their car. The family is to remain in the car at all times. That afternoon at 4 p.m., a pre-recorded video with class speaker speeches will be released.