A Kent-Meridian High School graduate at the 2020 ceremony at the school’s campus. Similar drive-thru ceremonies are planned for this year in the Kent School District. FILE PHOTO, Kent Reporter

A Kent-Meridian High School graduate at the 2020 ceremony at the school’s campus. Similar drive-thru ceremonies are planned for this year in the Kent School District. FILE PHOTO, Kent Reporter

Kent School District plans drive-thru graduations at high schools

A Kentridge senior says district should use outdoor stadium like surrounding districts

While most surrounding districts are using outdoor stadiums for high school graduations this year, the Kent School District plans to do drive-thru ceremonies at schools similar to last year due to COVID-19.

That decision didn’t go over well with Kentridge High School senior Ally Haisch. Her comments were read during the May 12 Kent School Board meeting.

Haisch named all of the districts that have announced ceremonies at outdoor stadiums, including Auburn, Renton, Highline, Seattle, Tacoma, Lake Washington, Sumner/Bonney Lake and Issaquah. The sites include Auburn, Renton and Highline memorial stadiums, T-Mobile Park in Seattle and Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma. Federal Way will use its memorial stadium with each student getting two tickets for in-person guests.

“These districts are making efforts to put plans into place that truly is a celebration of the student,” Haisch said. “It is hard to sit back and watch district after district make the change to in-person graduation. Meanwhile, it feels like Kent’s laziness is shining bright right now and the people at the top do not care about our success as students and young leaders.”

Superintendent Calvin Watts during his May 12 report to the board confirmed that Kent will hold graduations in June at each school.

“We will celebrate our seniors with on campus in-person graduation ceremonies,” Watts said. “It will be similar to last year with each school able to accommodate required health and safety guidelines. It will provide graduates and families a chance to celebrate a milestone.”

But that’s not the type of ceremony Haisch and others want. She suggested using the district’s French Field next to Kent-Meridian High School where students could be socially distanced on the field and people could sit in grandstands on each side of the stadium.

“There are options for a more normal graduation as demonstrated by surrounding districts,” Haisch said.

Watts said district leaders looked into larger venues, including French Field. But he said under state pandemic guidelines, each student would be limited to just two tickets each. He said the accesso ShoWare Center, where ceremonies have been in the past, wasn’t available because it’s being used as a vaccination site.

“We recognize these are not traditional graduation events,” Watts said about the drive-thru plan. “But they can be held regardless of which phase we are in and they allow the largest number of family members to attend.”

Kent used drive-thru celebrations last year due to COVID-19 with temporary stages set up near school parking lots and families able to drive their vehicles near the stage and take photos of their graduate receiving his or her diploma.

Haisch wants more.

“Our district has done some great things, starting in-person school and students and teachers complying with rules and sports were successful in their return (this spring),” she said. “With so so many people able to get vaccinated, in-person school and sports being played. … why are we still having a drive-thru graduation?”

Watts said parent and students will soon be getting information from their schools about the drive-thru graduations.

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