Graduates will likely be able to gather together, but capacity will be limited
Healdsburg High School is now in the process of planning an in-person graduation, which will either take place at the school’s new athletic field, or at Recreation Park, for the senior class of 2021.
“Now that we went from purple to red to the orange (tier), we are beginning the process of planning for an in-person graduation. As long as the trends continue, we believe we can do that safely,” said Healdsburg High School Principal Bill Halliday. “We’re starting the exciting process of planning for in-person events, but there will still be some limitations.”
All COVID-19 safety protocols will have to be in place and there will be a limit on how many people can gather together outdoors.
“We are deciding what the right location is for that. We may have it at our new athletic facilities here at the school soccer and football field, or we may have it at Rec Park, we’ve reserved Rec Park for the junior high and the high school. So, we have those two options and we’re going to decide the best one for the time, which is very different from any graduations in the past,” Halliday said.
He said school administration, staff and Healdsburg Junior High School Principal Chris Miller recently held a meeting to discuss initial plans for graduation.
Halliday said they’re optimistic and happy that they’ll likely be able to do something different from last year’s graduation, which was held in a drive-thru format at the school.
During the ceremony, one by one students walked up to receive their diploma and then returned to their family’s car to depart. Family members were required to stay in their car.
The graduates and parents tried to make the best of the situation with balloons and signs fastened to cars, while some waved signs and noise makers out of car windows.
“It turned out OK, but a drive by graduation had some serious limitations to it and it led to some disappointment on many people’s parts, including the staff, the students and the families, so we’re going to try to do something better (this year),” Halliday said.
He said the main challenge they’re going to have, is determining how many people they can have at the graduation ceremony.
“We know we can socially distance, we know we can assign by family groups to sit in particular locations, we know we can have access and egress safely covered, but we also know we’re not going to be able to just open the gates and let everybody in like we have in the past.” he said.
However, he added that it will be nice to have the opportunity for students to gather together one last time. This year’s graduating class consists of around 130 students.
Halliday said the ceremony will include teacher and student speakers and the receiving of diplomas.
Additionally, the school will make senior celebration lawn signs available and the school will once again work with the city to install banners with each graduate’s name and portrait on lamp posts throughout Healdsburg.
“With support of the graduation committee and the parents and volunteers, we’re going to do the lawn posts like we’ve done in the past and then we’re doing the banners in town again. Those were fantastic,” Halliday said of last year’s banners. “As soon as we put those up we said, ‘OK, this is a new tradition.’ They just look fantastic and the whole town got to celebrate them (the graduates), which is great.”
School administrators are also working to determine what other senior activities may be possible.
Unfortunately, the possibility of a senior prom doesn’t look too hopeful since it’s not very COVID safe to have a bunch of students dancing together in a crowded room, but Halliday did say they hope to have an in-person scholarship award night, which will be livestreamed.
“We are looking to have an outdoor, in-person scholarship night and we’ll have the students here and a certain number of presenters,” he said.
Halliday said seniors and their families can expect to see more information about scholarship night this week. He said they hope to send more detailed graduation information out to families in the next few weeks.
Halliday said it’s been fantastic to have students finally back on campus. Healdsburg High School students returned to hybrid in-person learning last week on April 5.
“We welcomed them back on Monday and the week has gone extremely well and it’s just been a joy to bring them back and I have to compliment the students, they’ve been so respectful of the guidelines and I’m just really impressed with their behavior and their support. We serve a great group of kids,” Halliday said.