Parents and friends celebrate more than 180 graduating seniors at Sequim High School’s 2019 commencement. With statewide restrictions on large gatherings in place, SHS staff and seniors class officers are looking at a drive-in ceremony for the 2020 event. Sequim Gazette file photo by Michael Dashiell

Parents and friends celebrate more than 180 graduating seniors at Sequim High School’s 2019 commencement. With statewide restrictions on large gatherings in place, SHS staff and seniors class officers are looking at a drive-in ceremony for the 2020 event. Sequim Gazette file photo by Michael Dashiell

Sequim High considering ‘drive-in’ for 2020 graduation

Caps and gowns … on wheels?

With statewide limits on large gatherings still in place, Sequim School District officials along with students, staff and administrators from Sequim High School are looking at options of how to send off the Class of 2020 with a commencement ceremony.

SHS principal Shawn Langston said that, after looking at guidelines from the Washington Department of Health, staff and senior class officers have chosen a “drive in” ceremony that will likely take place on June 19, a full week after the ceremony was scheduled.

“It is going to a certain place and having a ceremony at that place in your cars, basically,” Langston told graduates-to-be and parents at an online Senior Parent Meeting on May 21.

“This way our folks can be together for a ceremony,” Langston said, “(but) it will be different.”

The option was a unanimous choice, he said, as students and staff alike seek to be together at least one more time. The drive-in option, he said, allows for speeches from class- and faculty-elected speakers, valedictorians and the superintendent.

“More importantly, it allows us to see our friends, (to) walk across the stage, to be together even as we are social distancing,” senior class president Erin Dwyer said at last week’s Senior Parent meeting..

“Our senior year was ripped the shreds.” With drive-in ceremony, she said, students will be to “bring back a little bit of what we lost — and that’s being together.”

Other options, Langston said, included a “virtual” graduation with pre-recorded speeches and diploma acceptances that would be viewed online, and a drive-through ceremony or parade, where students (and families) would drive through to accept diplomas and say their goodbyes to staff — similar to SHS’s May 4 event when students picked up their caps and gowns on the SHS campus.

The drive-in option was a hands-down favorite, however, Langston said.

And while the style of graduation is set, the time, date and location are not quite settled. Sequim schools superintendent Rob Clark urged parents to expect graduation to be Friday, June 19.

“I’m about 95-98 percent sure it is the 19th,” Clark said. “It’s not going to be sooner, (and) if it were going to be later, that potentially shuts some kids out.”

The time may be dependent on location; if a downtown spot is secured, school officials noted, they may have to adjust the standard 6 p.m. graduation time. Traffic patterns may dictate the graduation ceremony’s location and time, Clark said.

The drive-in location would have to be big enough to hold vehicles for the expected 201 graduating Sequim High School seniors, school officials said.

“Its as close to a regular graduation as we can come up with,” Langston said.

SHS and district officials also noted they are looking to make sure that any students or their families don’t have access to a vehicle can get one if they want to take part in the drive-in commencement.

“We want everyone who wants to participate in graduation (to be able to) participate,” Clark said.

School officials are looking at options for recording and livestreaming the ceremony, Langston said.

“It’s going to be the most memorable graduation for Sequim High School, that’s for sure,” he said.

Other SHS senior festivities

Sequim High School’s annual Scholarship Night, set for Wednesday, May 27, will still take place but in an online “flipbook” put together by career/college/scholarship director Mitzi Sanders, one that features a photo and information about each graduating senior who earned a scholarship, Langston said.

Instead of its annual Senior Recognition assembly, the school will host a senior slideshow highlighting each graduating senior and host a viewing party via the Zoom application.

The Class of 2020 is looking to replace its Senior Ball, originally scheduled for May 2, with a picnic sometime in August. The class has raised funds over the school year, Langston noted, and could help pay for an event later in the year as restrictions on larger gatherings in Clallam County are eased.

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