How Arizona high schools celebrate graduations during COVID-19 - AZEdNews
Sections    Tuesday March 28th, 2023

How Arizona high schools celebrate graduations during COVID-19

Family Members And The Community Honor J.O. Combs High School Graduates Who Are Lined Up On The Pavement Six Feet Apart During A Drive By Graduation Ceremony. Photo Courtesy J.O. Combs District

Arizona high schools and parents are finding creative ways to celebrate graduations as social distancing during COVID-19 pandemic makes it difficult to hold traditional commencement ceremonies.

“We had all these expectations of our senior year … and now we’re coming to a realization that we’re not going to have the same experiences as every other generation of seniors,” said Kayla Frederic, a graduating senior at Tri-City College Prep, in an article in The Daily Courier. “This is revolutionary.”

The Arizona Department of Health Services recommended on May 14 that traditional graduation ceremonies now be held due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and they and the state school system insurance trust issued guidelines on best practices for commencement ceremonies, in a Verde Valley Independent article.

Cactus Shadows High School Principal Jim Swetter said their Parent Teacher Organization purchased “Class of 2020” yard signs so families could honor their graduates at home.

“We are also purchasing honor cords and providing gaps and gowns so that seniors can have them,” Swetter said.

“A local family is creating a large Class of 2020 sign to be displayed on our campus so students can get photographs in their graduation regalia,” Swetter said.

“Also, we are creating our Senior Slideshow to place on our website and possibly be used for a virtual graduation ceremony,” Swetter said.

While many schools are offering virtual graduations with videos, some like Peoria Unified, Deer Valley Unified, Tolleson Union High School and Dysart Unified School District have booked times at the end of June and early in July at State Farm Arena in Phoenix with plans to hold more traditional graduations when COVID-19 restrictions decrease.

But by far the most popular graduation plans this year involve car parades.

Graduating seniors in Vail School District’s six high schools took part in a car parade at Tucson Dragway earlier this week complete with a DJ playing music, after parents came up with the idea over a Zoom get together and talked with the racetrack manager who said they could do it, according to an article in the Arizona Daily Star.

Dysart Unified School District eighth-graders took part in drive-through graduation parades at their schools.

Rio Rico High School students will take part in a graduation parade Thursday and community members are invited to park along the parade route to cheer on graduates, according to an article in the Nogales International.

Parker High School seniors will have a parade through town and some areas of the Colorado River Indian Reservation on Thursday, and Payson High School will graduates take part in drive-through graduation ceremonies on Friday.

While music played in the background, Douglas High School graduating seniors drove up to a table in their decorated cars and trucks where they were presented their diplomas by the principal and superintendent.

“These students deserve so much more,” said Ray Borane, Douglas Unified governing board president, in a Douglas Dispatch article. “But I hope everybody understands that considering the circumstances, this district is trying to do the best it can considering all the different variables we are dealing with right now. We understand this is not what was expected but this is the least we can do now. We hope at a future date we can do something more. We want to do the best we can for these seniors right now.”

Chandler Unified School District and other school districts around the state honored graduating seniors by turning on their football stadium lights each night at 8: 20 p.m. (2020 military time) until what would have been graduation day.

Seniors at Mingus Union high schools will take part in a Turning the Tassel celebration on Friday where they will be divided into small groups to have their name announced, cross the stage, receive their diploma and take photos then they can view their virtual graduation video later that evening, according to a Verde Valley Independent article.

Chino Valley Unified School District students plan to have an in-person ceremony until late June and July.

Bisbee High School graduates received a free, four-course dinner to enjoy with their family courtesy of Cafe Roka and the Bisbee Foundation on Sunday, May 3.

Starting Monday, one Yuma Union high school showcased its graduating class each night with a virtual ceremony on Facebook at