Some schools plan outdoor proms & in-person graduations - AZEdNews
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Some schools plan outdoor proms & in-person graduations


A Rio Rico High School Graduate Celebrates Last Year During The School's Graduation Parade. Photo Courtesy Of Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35

Some Arizona schools are planning proms held outdoors on campus and traditional in-person graduation ceremonies as COVID-19 cases decrease in their communities.

Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35 will hold a ‘Masquerade Under the Stars’ themed prom in the courtyard on campus at Rio Rico High School, and an in-person traditional graduation ceremony outside as well, said Shannon Enciso, communications specialist for the school district that serves more than 3,300 students who live in rural communities along I-19 from Amado to Rio Rico.

“We will hold our graduation ceremony in Tucson at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson,” Enciso said. “We are planning to provide transportation to the event for all graduates, and we are working on providing a parent bus for those who need assistance getting to the location.”

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Rio Rico High School’s graduation parade in 2020. Photo courtesy Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35

Santa Cruz Valley Unified will use COVID-19 mitigating strategies such as limited attendance, requiring masks, holding events outside, and social distancing as much as possible, Enciso said.

“We plan on live streaming our in-person graduation ceremony to afford those who are not comfortable with attending the opportunity to be part of the ceremony,” Enciso said. 

Just like last year, Santa Cruz Valley Unified will include a Senior Parade as part of the celebration. 

“We have partnered again with our local radio station to livestream and D.J. the event.  Seniors will be invited to on-air interviews leading up to the parade.  We will end the parade with fireworks,” Enciso said.

“The response has been positive, supportive and nothing but appreciation in our efforts and plans,” said Hector Estrada, principal of Rio Rico High School.

Morenci Unified School District, the largest school district in Greenlee County,plans to have prom and traditional graduation ceremonies this year, said Supt. Dr. David Woodall.

“Attendance may be limited depending on the COVID numbers at that time if infection rate trends up,” Supt. Woodall said. “Currently, we would not limit attendance. We will ask everyone to wear a mask,” Supt. Woodall said.

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From left to right: La Maxima D.J. Oscar Felix Jr., Rio Rico High School Principal Hector Estrada, and Rio Rico High School teacher Joseph Scott announcing the graduates during the parade in 2020. Photo courtesy Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35

Morenci Unified School District serves nearly 1,500 students in a small rural mining community about 4o miles from Safford and 40 miles from New Mexico.

Our community “has been very supportive, and like others, looking forward to moving to a more normal situation,” Supt. Woodall said.

“Our county has an extremely high vaccination rate – currently at 40% which has allowed us to begin moving back to traditional activities,” Supt. Woodall said.

Agua Fria Union High School District is planning in-person graduation ceremonies for it’s 1,200 students to be held on Saturday, May 15 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, according to an article in the Buckeye Independent.

Dysart Unified School District has been “closely monitoring the COVID-19 recommendations by state, county and local officials to ensure that any planned events are done in a safe and healthy manner, and we will continue to monitor feasibility,” said Renée Ryon, communications director for the school district that serves 24,000 students in El Mirage, Glendale, Surprise,  Youngtown and Maricopa County.

“In Dysart, we believe it is important to celebrate the hard work of our graduates, and we are thrilled to be able to have an in person ceremony this year,” Ryon said.

For our high school graduations, Dysart Unified is working closely with State Farm Stadium on what ceremonies will look like, and what specific protocols will be in place to ensure the health and safety of all in attendance, Ryon said.

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A Rio Rico High School student and family members take part in the 2020 graduation parade. Photo courtesy Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35

“We have extended the time in between ceremonies to allow for cleaning, and tickets will be required to limit capacity,” Ryon said.

“We are excited that for the first time ever, and in an effort to accommodate those that cannot attend in person, our Dysart Student Broadcast (DSB Live) program will be live-streaming each ceremony,” Ryon said.

For proms, schools have been asked to follow current local and district guidelines for health and safety, which for schools includes face coverings, Ryon said.

Proms will be held outside on school campuses this year to allow for social distancing, and seats will be assigned, Ryon said.

“Prom is a special event that students look forward to throughout their high school career, and if they can be held with proper health and safety procedures, we are happy to allow them to once again take place,” Ryon said.

“Our students and families appreciate the efforts we are taking in order to hold these events, and we’re excited to be able to safely host the celebrations as we seek to move towards some sense of normalcy, Ryon said.

Both prom and  graduation will be held in-person this year, said  Rita Ezzai, public information officer for Florence Unified School District.

“Florence Unified School District is proud to have also held an in-person graduation ceremony last year as well,” Ezzai said.

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A Rio Rico High School student and family members take part in the 2020 graduation parade. Photo courtesy Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35

“Florence High School will be holding an outdoor prom celebration on Main Street in downtown Florence to promote social distancing and to create a vintage atmosphere,” Ezzai said. “We are waiting for official approval from the Town of Florence.”  

Students and families have been incredibly supportive of the district’s efforts to provide a sense of normalcy as more and more people receive the COVID-19 vaccination, Ezzai said. 

“Florence Unified Supt. Chris Knutsen has fearlessly guided our students, families and staff throughout this pandemic with a sense of calm, focused leadership who has consistently put kids first, “ Ezzai said.

“He has offered the use of our school facilities to hold the ‘Last Chance Hurrah’ Cross Country event where 500 participants from across the country competed at Poston Butte H.S.,” Ezzai said. “Additionally, Supr. Knutsen provided the facilities at Poston to hole the State Championship Cheer and Wrestling Competitions over spring break this year.”

“Our enrollment is down 7%; however during this pandemic, our goal has been to remain open as much as possible,” Supt. Knutsen said. “We communicated to our families that we would be flexible to accommodate students who wanted to attend school in person while also taking care of our students who wanted to attend school online. We have also made it a priority to take care of our staff.”

“Going into next year, we will be very intentional in our efforts to reach out to those students we lost during the pandemic,” Supt. Knutsen said. “I am confident that we will recapture those students next year by offering them even greater educational opportunities.”

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River Valley High School students at their socially distanced graduation with COVID-19 mitigation strategies in 2020. Photo courtesy of Colorado River Union High School District

Colorado River Union High School District and Bullhead City Elementary School District students will take part on traditional graduation and prom ceremonies, said Lance Ross, communications and public relations director for the districts that serve students in Mohave County.

“The Colorado River Union High School District governing board has lifted capacity controls for events at our facilities.  However, masks are still required on school premises and recommended elsewhere,” Ross said.

All three graduations will be in our indoor events facility, the Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse, and sanitizing and other mitigation will take place between the ceremonies, Ross said .

“Our Bullhead City Elementary School District is tentatively planning to hold its eighth grade promotion ceremony – students leaving Fox Creek Junior High and moving to high school –  inside the high school district’s Fieldhouse,” Ross said. “Safety protocols will remain in place with distanced seating on the Fieldhouse floor and limited seating for family members in the Fieldhouse bleachers.”

Proms will be outdoors on athletic fields, limited to seniors, their dates and faculty chaperones, Ross said.

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Mohave High School students at their graduation in 2019 before COVID-19. Photo courtesy Colorado River Union High School District

The feedback the district has received from students and their families has been “generally positive,” Ross said.

“Some students at one of the high schools launched a petition drive to allow more attendees at graduation, but that was made moot when the governing board lifted capacity caps,” Ross said.

Tucson Unified School District Supt. Dr. Gabriel Trujillo said there will be in-person graduation ceremonies and proms this year, both will be held outside on school campuses, and participants will be expected to wear masks, according to an Arizona Public Media article.

Students will be limited to four guests each at graduation ceremonies, and guests must have a physical ticket and will be kept three feet apart.

“We’re not obligating the students to get a vaccine, we’re strongly encouraging,” Supt. Trujillo said in the article. “We would love to see all of our seniors try to at least get the first of the two doses, two weeks prior to either the graduation ceremony or the prom.”

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A Rio Rico High School graduate celebrates last year during the school’s graduation parade. Photo courtesy of Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35