Pandemic playing havoc with Arizona high school graduations

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PHOENIX (AP) — The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with high school proms and graduations across Arizona, but some school administrators are devising backup plans.

Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy, a small charter school in Prescott, is planning to a drive-in graduation ceremony for 32 senior students.

Melissa Wagoner, Northpoint’s director, told the Arizona Republic that the ceremony will take place in the back parking lot of Prescott Resort with cars assembling in rows.

The event will be projected onto a large screen and the sound will be broadcast through an FM radio channel.

The ceremony will include a senior movie, with different photos from the students’ four years of high school. And because the class is so small, the seniors can also send in videos with short speeches.

Seniors will receive their diplomas “drive-thru” style as they exit.

“We’re trying to be creative about it and we’re honoring their time, their rite of passage,” Wagoner said.

Mesa Public Schools, the largest district in the state, promised families a virtual graduation in a letter dated May 1, according to the Republic.

The virtual ceremonies will be streamed the day and time graduations were originally planned to be held for each high school.

The Republic reports that the Mesa district also will print and mail out copies of graduation programs for every student, distribute yard signs and take out newspaper ads.

Chandler Unified, the second-largest school district in the state, wrote to families on May 5 that the district is working on a plan to hold graduation ceremonies at each high school while still adhering to the recommended guidelines by health experts.

At the ceremonies, students would be seated six feet apart and an audience would likely be limited. The ceremonies would instead be live streamed for families to watch.

Peoria, Dysart and Deer Valley school districts jointly announced graduation plans for the end of June and early July.

The districts reserved State Farm Stadium — home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals — for ceremonies if gathering restrictions are lifted or adjusted to allow the event to take place.

Glendale Union High School District wrote in a letter to the families of senior students that it is actively seeking venues for in-person graduation ceremonies once restrictions are lifted.

Seniors at Madison Highland Prep high school in Phoenix picked up personalized yard signs late last month celebrating their upcoming graduation. A virtual ceremony is scheduled for the 101 seniors on May 21.

Tucson Unified School District’s superintendent, Gabriel Trujillo, said in a video message May 1 that in-person ceremonies for high schools will be postponed until June 17 and 18, while the school will have a televised graduation program in late May.

The televised program will let salutatorian, valedictorians and school principals deliver remarks.

“We are extremely hopeful that we’ll be able to facilitate our in-person ceremonies,” Trujillo told the Republic.


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