Graduation ceremonies for a second year will be structured around the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This time around, things should look a little more customary.
All public high schools in Lewis County and south Thurston County will host in-person graduation ceremonies this month, most of them outside in stadiums thanks to relaxed social distancing guidelines. Onalaska, Winlock, Napavine and W.F. West will kick off the festivities with graduations scheduled for this weekend.
Masks and social distancing will be required at all rite-of-passage events in Lewis County, as well as while on high school campuses.
For many students, this will be their first time seeing their class in its entirety this year. Lewis County public schools largely started the school year online, though most began transitioning to part-time, in-person instruction in the late fall.
“I think we’re thrilled. For the first time, the class of 2021 will be together, distanced and safe,” said Chehalis School District spokesman Andy Lynch. “It has been a challenging year for everyone and for seniors ... This is a really incredible way to end it, for them to be with all their friends and peers in one place.”
W.F. West High School will host its commencement at 6 p.m. this Saturday at the football stadium. Students will receive four tickets for family members, and those pods will be required to stay socially distanced from others.
Last year, Pe Ell graduates missed out on celebrations after the education community and families opted to hold out for restrictions to ease in order to hold a traditional commencement in lieu of an alternative parade or digital celebration. It was among the only high schools in the county that didn’t have a ceremony.
This year, the district will hold an in-person ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday, June 18, at the football stadium, with a backup plan to move inside if it rains. All seniors will also receive 20 tickets to hand out to family members and friends.
Pe Ell Principal Brandon Pontius said it means a lot to be able to celebrate seniors and their accomplishments this year after what happened in 2020. They’ll also be broadcasting the ceremony live; those details will be posted online at a future date.
Marilyn Haskins, Centralia High School’s graduation coordinator, said the school will host its outdoor ceremony at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 11. Their commencement will be livestreamed as well, and Centralia students will be issued four tickets.
Haskins said it will be about as close to a traditional graduation as they can get.
“(It’s) everything we’ve traditionally done, with the exception of they’ll be spaced apart. We’ll even have a live band,” she said. “That’s kind of exciting.”
Onalaska High School has a full-morning itinerary scheduled for its seniors this Friday, which will conclude with a 7 p.m. commencement on the football field. A senior breakfast will be hosted at 8 a.m. on campus, followed by a 9 a.m. parade that will travel down Carlisle Avenue and pass the senior class to congratulate them.
Following commencement, senior Loggers will set off at 11 p.m. to Silverwood Theme Park for a senior trip.
Napavine will host its graduation 2 p.m. this Saturday in the high school gymnasium. Each student will get eight tickets, according to teacher Karen Rains.
For many years, Napavine seniors have conducted a ritual at graduation of handing their moms and dads flowers and candies. That ritual didn’t take place last year, but it’s making a return this year, Rains said.
“It’s a real emotional time for the kids … It’s just a nice thank you,” she said.
Rochester High School students will have graduation at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 13, at Saint Martin’s University.
Adna High School will host its commencement 1 p.m. Saturday, June 12, at its football stadium. A maximum of 400 attendees with tickets will be admitted. The event will also be streamed, and a senior parade will take place earlier in the day at 9 a.m.
Oakville will be sending seniors out in style. The Olympia Corvette Club will drive out the graduating class in fancy Chevrolet sports cars at their 4 p.m. graduation ceremony held Saturday, June 12.
Toledo will also host its ceremony on Saturday, June 12, but at 2 p.m. at Ted Hippi Stadium. Students will be alloted five tickets.
Due to increased transmission of COVID-19 locally, many public schools have struggled in recent weeks with keeping staffing and students in the classroom as positive cases and contact tracing disrupted traditional learning models. No commencements have been canceled, though.
Lewis County currently has the fifth-highest COVID-19 transmission when compared with Washington’s 38 other counties.
Local High School Graduations
• Rainier High School: 6 p.m. Friday, June 4, in the high school gymnasium
• Onalaska High School: 7 p.m. Friday, June 4, at high school stadium
• Winlock High School: Noon Saturday, June 5, on-campus
• Napavine High School: 2 p.m. Saturday, June 5, in the high school gymnasium
• W.F. West High School: 6 p.m. Saturday, June 5, at high school stadium
• Tenino High School: 6 p.m. Friday, June 11, at high school stadium
• Centralia High School: 7 p.m. Friday, June 11, at high school stadium
• White Pass High School: 11 a.m. Saturday, June 12, at high school stadium
• Adna Middle-High School: 1 p.m. Saturday, June 12, at high school stadium
• Toledo High School: 2 p.m. Saturday, June 12, at high school stadium
• Mossyrock High School: 2 p.m. Saturday, June 12, in the high school gymnasium
• Oakville High School: 4 p.m. Saturday, June 12, at high school stadium
• Rochester High School: 2 p.m. Sunday, June 13, at Saint Martin’s University.
• Pe Ell High School: 7 p.m. Friday, June 18, at high school stadium