Lawrence graduation ceremonies to occur on time, but COVID-19 measures not yet clear

photo by: Ashley Golledge

Free State High and Lawrence High graduates sported masks in addition to their caps and gowns during graduation ceremonies Saturday, July 18, 2020, at the schools' stadiums.

The Lawrence school district is planning for graduation ceremonies to occur at their usual times this spring, but how they will be conducted as the coronavirus pandemic continues is not yet clear.

District spokeswoman Julie Boyle told the Journal-World this week that the district planned for its three high school graduations to take place in late May, when they typically occur. The Lawrence Virtual School ceremony is scheduled for May 22, and Lawrence High School and Free State High School are scheduled for May 25 and May 26, respectively. The ceremonies will be held at the high school’s outdoor athletic stadiums.

But the district has not yet finalized what COVID-19 measures will be in place for the ceremonies. Boyle said the district would follow public health guidelines, which could include requiring social distancing and using a ticketing system to ensure an attendance limitation.

She said the district was still working out those details as well as an inclement weather plan. The district will announce plans when they are finalized.

Superintendent Anthony Lewis said at a recent school board meeting that limiting attendance would be “likely” because of the pandemic. He also noted that Allen Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas would not be available to the district as an indoor backup location this year.

Last year, the district pushed its graduation ceremonies to July because of the pandemic. The district originally planned for the ceremony to include all the graduating students and guests at once, maintaining 6 feet of social distancing.

But as the event approached and cases of the virus continued to rise, the district modified the ceremonies to a staggered ceremony where graduates and their guests entered and exited the schools’ athletic stadiums in staggered groups to decrease contact among those in attendance.

It seems likely that the pandemic will be less of a concern for the 2021 ceremonies. Cases in Douglas County have been declining steadily since January as thousands of residents, including district faculty and staff, have received vaccinations. Additionally, all of the district’s schools recently returned to in-person learning.


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