Graduation as normal, with a crowd of supporting family, friends and community members, won’t be happening this year. Instead, students will get the chance to walk across the stage one at a time on film, with an edited together ceremony to be broadcast on YouTube in mid-June. A parade down Commercial Avenue will also allow celebration of the senior classes from both Anacortes and Cap Sante high schools.

• Correction: The virtual ceremony will be filmed Friday, June 5. A previous version of the story had the date printed incorrectly.

This year, graduation will have a lot of the same elements as normal. Students will walk across a stage in their caps and gowns, be congratulated by administrators and take their diploma.

The audience, though, will be empty, and the students will be allowed in one at a time.

The COVID-19 pandemic is doing away with “normal” public events, especially those with a large audience, and graduation is no different.

Both Anacortes High School and Cap Sante High School are working with students and a third-party vendor to create virtual graduation ceremonies.

The virtual ceremonies and their filming dates are planned under the assumption that Skagit County will have moved into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s phased reopening plan for Washington state. If that doesn’t happen in the next few weeks, plans will have to change, Superintendent Mark Wenzel said.

District leaders are still discussing an alternate option, he said.

For now, the district has come up with the best plan it can for students, AHS Principal Jon Ronngren said.

“It’s certainly not ideal,” he said. “We’d much rather be celebrating in person with our community and our graduating class, but this is the reality we are facing right now.”

Administrators have been working with students and their families to find the best solution and tried to find a way to celebrate that would still keep everyone safe, he said.

With a virtual ceremony and a parade of cars down Commercial Avenue, this is unlike anything other classes have experienced, CSHS Principal Kecia Fox said.

“It will be definitely be memorable,” she said. “This is not something they will forget.”

All graduating seniors for both schools will visit Brodniak Hall Friday, June 5, during their assigned time slot.

They will wait, socially distanced from other students, in the theater’s foyer for their turn. Then, they will get the chance to walk across the stage and take their diploma. The only other people their will be administrators (like the principal and Wenzel) and the camera crew, AHS Principal Jon Ronngren said. Everyone will wear masks, he said.

After they get their diploma, the students will leave campus for the day.

Student speakers and administrators and board members offering comments will film their portions of the ceremony that day, too, Ronngren said.

Then, the camera crew will take the footage, edit it and create a full graduation ceremony, to be broadcast live on YouTube and then available for purchase by senior families.

CSHS’s graduation ceremony will be broadcast at 7 p.m. Monday, June 15, and AHS’s graduation ceremony will be broadcast at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 17.

The ceremony itself isn’t the only celebration for seniors, though, Ronngren said. Those looking for photo opportunities on the AHS campus (like with a traditional graduation archway or with the large purple 

bell signed by seniors) can sign up for a time slot to do so on the morning and early afternoon of June 17, Ronngren said.

Then, it’s time for the parade.

Participating seniors from both schools will come to AHS with their cars June 17 and line up, before all the seniors who want to will drive in a line down to Commercial Avenue for a vehicle parade, accompanied by law enforcement. 

Where exactly the parade will begin and end isn’t set quite yet, but it will be along Commercial Avenue, Ronngren said.

The parade is a way for the community to stay socially distant and still celebrate the seniors, Ronngren said.

Depending on how safety regulations continue, Ronngren said he is keeping in mind the possibility of hosting some sort of informal gathering late in the summer for seniors and their families.

“We hope to bring the whole class together before they all leave for different parts of the world,” he said.

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