A Kent-Meridian High graduate walks toward the lion statue on campus. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A Kent-Meridian High graduate walks toward the lion statue on campus. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A graduation like no other at Kent-Meridian High School | Photos

Students walk across campus in stages to keep social distancing

It was a graduation like no other in a year like no other. About 300 members of the Kent-Meridian High School Class of 2020 took one last walk across campus on Tuesday, scheduled between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. to keep social distancing.

Each student posed in their cap and gown for a photo with the lion statue, received their diploma cover and posed again on a temporary small stage in front of the school for their official graduation photo. Up to four family members could watch from a safe social distance before they and the graduate jumped in their car and headed away to make room for the next student.

In a normal year, the ceremony would have been in June at the accesso ShoWare Center where thousands would be in the arena, seated above the hundreds of students seated on the floor. Students would parade across the stage as many eyes watched.

But the COVID-19 pandemic made this far from a normal year. Staff, students and parents came up with a social distancing plan for the 2020 ceremony.

“It’s a little unexpected,” graduate Shyann Dietz said after taking the walk. “It’s kind of sad, but they make do with what they can do. I do appreciate what they’ve done. It means a lot, honestly, to be able to experience this.”

Dietz fought back tears as she prepared to cross the stage.

“It’s emotional, of course,” said Dietz, who plans to work this fall to save money to get into the Pima Medical Institute.

Kent-Meridian and iGrad kicked off the graduation walks at the individual schools. The other graduations include Kentwood on July 8, Kent Mountain View Academy and Kent Phoenix Academy on July 9, Kentlake on July 10, Kentridge on July 11 and The Outreach Program on July 14.

Superintendent Calvin Watts stood in the front parking lot at Kent-Meridian to watch the ceremony on the nearby stage.

“I could not be more proud to be a part of this event that took hours of planning,” Watts said. “I’m happy for our families and our students. They are celebrating a huge milestone for their students and for us as a school district.”

Watts missed the usual graduation procedures.

“If you think about our normal graduation, my only regret is I did not get the chance to shake the hands of every student as they walk down and receive their diploma,” Watts said. “While that’s something I miss, it pales in comparison to the fact they are able to celebrate this accomplishment today.”

Things certainly were different than past years.

“Normally, we have ShoWare Center and families can come and celebrate,” Watts said as he watched families get in their vehicles and drive away after snapping a quick photo or two from the roped off viewing area by the stage. “But under the circumstances, understanding that for students, family and staff, health and safety and wellness are our number one priority, this is the best option we had available. This was something that our students, staff and families shared this is what they wanted to wait for. Patience pays off and this is an example of it.”

Without the large gathering, there weren’t the typical screams, hollers and every graduate throwing their caps in the air. It was more quiet and reflective.

“It’s pretty interesting, pretty unusual,” said graduate Peter Herbert, who plans to attend the University of New Mexico in the fall. “They are doing the best with what’s available.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

A Kent-Meridian graduate poses in front of the lion statue. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A Kent-Meridian graduate poses in front of the lion statue. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A student makes the graduation walk July 7 across the Kent-Meridian campus. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A student makes the graduation walk July 7 across the Kent-Meridian campus. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A Kent-Meridian High graduate poses for a photo on a temporary stage in the school’s front parking lot. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A Kent-Meridian High graduate poses for a photo on a temporary stage in the school’s front parking lot. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

Family members take a photo of a Kent-Meridian graduate from a roped off area in the front parking lot. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

Family members take a photo of a Kent-Meridian graduate from a roped off area in the front parking lot. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

Three Kent-Meridian graduates line up to get ready to cross the stage for their official photo. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

Three Kent-Meridian graduates line up to get ready to cross the stage for their official photo. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A Kent-Meridian graduate jumps back in his family vehicle after leaving the stage. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A Kent-Meridian graduate jumps back in his family vehicle after leaving the stage. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A graduate prepares to pose for a photo next to the Kent-Meridian lion statue. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A graduate prepares to pose for a photo next to the Kent-Meridian lion statue. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

More in News

I-5 to close overnight in Federal Way Aug. 28-30

5-mile shutdown for new bridge construction at 70th Avenue East in Fife

50 firefighters extinguish Maple Valley brush fire

Three abandoned structures burned but fire kept away from residences

Kent man killed in head-on collision along Kent Black Diamond Road SE

Kent driver arrested for DUI; faces potential vehicular homicide charge

City of Kent awards $721,381 in grants for housing, food, medical needs

A total of 19 grants from federal CARES Act funds to local groups

Superintendent Calvin Watts. FILE PHOTO
Kent School Board approves superintendent’s contract extension

3-2 vote gives Watts a contract through June 2022

Screenshot from Gov. Jay Inslee’s press conference on Aug. 5, 2020.
Inslee says schools in virus hot spots should stay closed

King County among high-risk counties; several school districts will have remote learning in the fall.

Kent, Federal Way men arrested in drug trafficking bust

Reportedly part of 12-member group distributing fentanyl, heroin, meth and cocaine

Three drivers were injured in a four-vehicle crash Tuesday evening, Aug. 4, at the South 277th Street southbound off ramp from State Route 167 near the Kent/Auburn border. Washington State Patrol arrested a 19-year-old Kent man for investigation of felony eluding, vehicular assault and felony hit and run after he smashed into the rear of a vehicle following a short pursuit (that the trooper had halted) for speeding. COURTESY PHOTO, Valley Regional Fire
Kent man arrested after four-vehicle crash on Highway 167 off ramp

Reportedly speeding in BMW sedan on South 277th Street southbound exit

King County Election headquarters in Renton on Aug. 4 for the primary election. Haley Ausbun/staff photo
Inslee and Culp lead governor race; incumbent Dems ahead for Congress | Statewide results

Early results for governor, state schools chief, attorney general and more.

Most Read