SCHOOLS: Should the Class of 2021 get an in-person graduation?

(WSB photo: WSHS Class of 2020 drive-thru event, May 2020)

Because of the pandemic, the Class of 2020 ended high school with online ceremonies and drive-thru celebrations. With vaccinations under way and case numbers dropping, should the Class of 2021 get a chance to graduate in person? West Seattle High School‘s senior-class leaders say yes, and have just launched a petition drive. Here’s how they make their case, as sent by ASB president Ella Richardson;

As planning is getting underway, the school board has informed the student body that their graduation this year will be held virtually yet again. For the class of 2021, their entire year has been experienced virtually. They have missed out on all of the milestones that high-school seniors often look forward to, which has contributed to the mental-health crisis many students are facing.

Though this has been a year of loss, the Senior class has still held out hope for an in-person graduation. With vaccine rollouts rapidly increasing, and COVID numbers trending down, the likelihood of in-person events happening in June is a possible reality.

All of our schools hold weekly in-person distributions, and contact sports have resumed. Furthermore, many schools across the state have managed to safely return to in-person learning. These steps make it clear that a safe, in-person graduation is possible, and should be pursued by the Seattle Public Schools district.

If you agree the School Board should move beyond simply holding a virtual graduation, and begin planning for a safe in-person graduation, please sign this petition.

Some districts are planning for possible in-person graduations, like Highline (just south of Seattle). SPS’s website, meantime, lists only dates.

32 Replies to "SCHOOLS: Should the Class of 2021 get an in-person graduation?"

  • Ella February 12, 2021 (12:00 pm)

    Please consider signing the petition! It would mean the world to us seniors!

    • Mariem February 12, 2021 (5:56 pm)

      Will do Ella!

    • Pessoa February 13, 2021 (10:32 am)


  • SmallBizOwner February 12, 2021 (12:09 pm)

    A rational argument by a smart, young woman. An outdoor ceremony that practices social distancing while wearing masks shouldn’t be an issue. Let the graduates have a small piece of normalcy in an otherwise unconventional year.

    • Brian February 12, 2021 (9:02 pm)

      Weird… why would a small biz owner be promoting this sort of behavior? I can’t quite figure it out!

  • overit February 12, 2021 (12:35 pm)

    Does this mean no Prom either? What a rip off for these kids. Please sign the petition!!

  • SPS Facility manager February 12, 2021 (12:41 pm)

    I work for Seattle public schools/parks and have been told the capacity that we can have at stadiums currently is 75 people hopefully that continues to go up as Covid cases go down! Side note that the covid testing/ future vaccine site is going to be fun if west seattle and Sealth have graduation at SWAC which already causes parking hassles.

    • Kyle February 12, 2021 (7:50 pm)

      Do you know the criteria for opening the SWAC back up for runners and community members when events aren’t occuring?

  • momosmom February 12, 2021 (12:59 pm)

    Yes and so should the Class of 2020 late but it would just be right and of course with masks and 6 ft apart :>)

  • arbora February 12, 2021 (1:18 pm)

    I would also like to include other students finishing their last year at their schools such as 8th graders.

  • vee February 12, 2021 (2:28 pm)

    Let them have their graduationSo frustrated with seattle school districtOther school districts manage and are getting students back to schoolThe detriment on mental health has taken a toll

  • AMD February 12, 2021 (4:22 pm)

    It seems fair to at least entertain both options and have contingency plans for both.  There is currently an expectation that vaccines will be widely available by then and numbers will be much lower, making an in-person, outdoors event less risky this year than it was last year when we still understood so little and had no recourse.  That said, they should also be prepared to have a virtual ceremony if plans for the vaccine don’t go as hoped, or infection rates aren’t dropping by enough by then.  

  • Graciano February 12, 2021 (5:32 pm)

    Really Arbora, are you going to include the kindergarteners and 5th graders with some participation trophies.

  • Mariem February 12, 2021 (6:11 pm)

    How was the decision made? I don’t recall any effort to survey families of graduating seniors, including mine.  Surely folks this can be done safely!  

  • TJ February 12, 2021 (8:21 pm)

    Graduation is June 14th. By then this shouldn’t even be up for debate. Kids are the least affected physically by covid, but they are the ones suffering the most. The teachers here need to get vaccinated, and then the schools fully opened up. At this point I am afraid for next year’s seniors being in school fully the beginning of the school year. SPS won’t even know how to start schools again fully without a slow phased in plan by grade with a hybrid model. If they keep looking for reasons to hold off, they will find them. Friends of ours kids in Florida have been in school fully, and while some may point to the covid numbers in that state, their schools have been safe and running great.

    • Brian February 12, 2021 (9:01 pm)

      I will point to the numbers in Florida and say “It doesn’t look good!” 

  • Brian February 12, 2021 (8:59 pm)

    I say this as someone who didn’t care about graduation when it happened in 2001: no. It’s not worth whatever you think it is to walk across a stage and get a piece of paper. They’ll mail it to you. 

  • overit February 12, 2021 (9:37 pm)

    Exactly TJ!! I am beyond frustrated with this state and Seattle Schools in particular.

  • unpopular opinion February 12, 2021 (10:14 pm)


    I do not fault these students for wanting this, but I ask them to reconsider. 

    This is not a time for life as usual, fun ceremonies, parties, etc. We are in the midst of a serious public health crisis and we all need to understand, make some responsible sacrifices in order to be responsible humans, and postpone some things.

    Perhaps there may be some postponed in person graduations, that can take place at the end of summer or next Fall, assuming the situation is much improved.

    I feel for all our kids have had to endure during this difficult past year, and honestly, I mostly feel for them because of the lack of poor leadership, support, and role models of adults during this time. They deserve better, and can do better for the next generation. There are so many lessons to be learned here.

    I believe these kids are resilient and strong and can set a good example for younger kids, by choosing to wait for in person graduations and other gatherings, until we are further beyond the worst of the pandemic.

    And then, I hope they can have an even more fun, kick a** graduation, after waiting, and we adults should help make it so.

    • uo February 12, 2021 (10:28 pm)

      * lack of / poor leadership

    • Pessoa February 13, 2021 (11:00 am)

      Is irrational fear and paranoia values to instill in kids and young adults?Fact:  The preponderance of those most at risk for life-threatening complications from Covid-19  have, or will soon be, vaccinated.  In the remaining population, the risk plummets dramatically  and for children and young adults the risk for serious complications is almost statistically meaningless.  Not all children have the same family resources and/or emotional resiliency to deal with the pandemic; for them, the damage of not returning to classrooms has been incalculable and has possibly permanently altered the trajectory of their lives.   I am the very last person to “coddle” children, but it anything but “adult” to ignore this reality. 

        • Pessoa February 14, 2021 (7:37 pm)

          The time stamp on that link is 5/23/2020.   In May of last year, the vaccine was still a gleam in the eye of researchers.  Much has changed since then. 

          • uo February 15, 2021 (8:28 am)

            Much has also not changed since then. Including, how the virus spreads, the risks to the many who have yet to be vaccinated (and even possibly still to those who have been), and the need for mitigation efforts.

            Regarding what has changed, maybe we should also talk about how the numbers have surged much worse since then, or how there are new more contagious variants of the virus, or simply how many more people have since been impacted or have died.

  • Elle Nell February 12, 2021 (10:39 pm)

    Boy, the way people are completely disregarding the very real pandemic, will be the exact reason why we will continue lock downs and other restrictions. It’s very frustrating when we hear adults making these extremely immature statements and THEN have the audacity to complain about the restrictions! Please stop the BS and act right so we can, at some point be done with this…. and then your sweet little childs can have an in person graduation with the rest of those that couldn’t . Including my son who is a 2020 grad. Get a grip!  

  • SPSisajoke February 12, 2021 (11:04 pm)

    Let them have an outdoor graduation.  Get the kids back in school ASAP.   Our 3rd grade teacher in SPS is amazing but online learning is a joke for most.   Enough is enough, seriously 

  • Mariem February 13, 2021 (12:05 am)

    As a parent of a senior from a family that takes covid very seriously, masks 100 percent of time throughout pandemic, seriously limits going out anywhere other than for necessities, I’d just like to see a full evaluation of the situation. Is it true there is no way to safely and responsibly manage an outdoor graduation with distancing and masks and reduced numbers, maybe cohorts of students? I’d like the district to think Creatively in evaluating if there is any safe way to mark this milestone in person no matter how much thought and work it takes. I don’t believe it is selfish or irresponsible to ask the question.

    • unpopular opinion February 13, 2021 (10:14 am)

      Appreciate your perspective and questions, on behalf of your graduate. But, would delaying an in person graduation ceremony be so tragical, if it means potentially saving some lives out there?

      Resources are so strained and going towards figuring out so many things, perhaps putting graduation talks on hold for a few months would make sense? Postponing might also allow for a less restrictive and more enjoyable graduation event for these kids.

      Perhaps we should continue to hold the line, regarding gatherings and restrictions, and relax our urgent need to resume things, until we have more confidence we’re further through this, and won’t back slide into more surges. Keeping in mind, the current covid numbers may be skewed, due to fewer people seeking testing, and we don’t know yet the impacts the new variant strains may have here. 

      I totally understand it would feel victorious for the kids to make this happen, but maybe it would also be victorious to choose perseverance and the reward of maybe a better planned and more fun graduation, if postponed. 

      I don’t know if I am right, it’s another perspective, to consider. There is no question that they are deserving, after all their hard work in school, and their efforts and the challenges during this pandemic. 

      • LK February 14, 2021 (7:42 am)

        Appreciate your perspective UO.  The truth about graduation ceremonies is this: nobody really cares that much about them except the person who is graduating.  Not to diminish the accomplishment and the milestone of finishing high school, but for most kids it’s a jumping off point into something bigger, and they can still have a party with their immediate family and maybe a couple of friends, if done safely.  The smaller more intimate celebration will likely mean the more to the graduate as time goes on, instead of some mass recognition event done awkwardly during a pandemic.  Just speaking from personal experience.  

  • ej February 13, 2021 (5:03 pm)

    I am totally in agreement with unpopular opinion’ here.  I have a kid. I have nephews. I have teachers in my family. We are in the midst of a once in a century pandemic.  Asymptomatic kids and staff will spread the virus to those who will not be asymptomatic. Teachers will die. Some kids will die. The cycle will continue indefinitely.I think it completely sucks that kids are experiencing this mess at the end of their high school careers (including my kid).  But, I would rather his grandparents and other family live to see him get his first job, get married, start a family… more than I want him to experience in-person school and a grad ceremony.Teachers need to be vaccinated before they return to the classroom. Period. I want them to see their kids get their first jobs, get married, start a family too.  

  • unpopular opinion February 15, 2021 (8:48 am)

    Thanks @ LK and ej, appreciate your thoughts on this too.

  • Mariem February 15, 2021 (12:40 pm)

    I commented earlier asking that a full evaluation be made before decision is made on graduation. I DO NOT support kids going back to the classroom. Mine’s a senior. I DO support consideration of an outdoor, masked, socially distanced – perhaps in small groups- Wshs graduation. Please don’t conflate the two questions.  Ella’s petition is for graduation not attending school guys!

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