Coronado High School ceremony

When Scottsdale seniors graduate in May, they won’t have traditional events like this Coronado High School ceremony in 2019. 

Scottsdale high schools have delayed traditional graduation ceremonies until summer but that does not mean the scheduled commencement this month will pass without fanfare.

Scottsdale Unified School District announced each high school will produce a graduation video for students that will be released on May 21, when ceremonies were supposed to take place.

“This event will mimic what the traditional ceremony would look like, though it will consist of pre-recorded segments produced into a single video,” the district told parents. “The event for each high school will be personalized for each high school.”

The plan echoes what many other area school districts are doing even as officials concede a summer ceremony is neither a certainty nor likely to attract every senior.

The video will be made available at the originally-scheduled graduation time before being shared more widely online, according to the district.

Saguaro High School senior Tyler Velarde said she plans to contribute to her school’s video.

“I think this is a great idea, and I’m very excited to see the finished product,” Velarde said “I plan on making a clip for this.”

Notre Dame Preparatory, a private high school in northern Scottsdale, also announced modified plans to honor seniors on May 14, the school’s original graduation date, with a “drive-thru senior celebration ceremony.”

Students must stay in their vehicles at all times in line with social distancing guidelines.

The event will include seniors and their families driving Loop Road and Sesi Way to receive cheers from faculty and staff, a photo-op and “senior goodies”, including diplomas, yard signs and other honors.

Seniors will also have the chance to hear their names announced in front of the campus chapel.

At Notre Dame, students and families will have the opportunity to take cap and gown photos on campus the week of May 18 via appointments set 15 minutes apart.

“This opportunity is for families who know they will be unable to attend the graduation ceremony in June and for any family who wishes to participate,” according to a school announcement.

Both SUSD and Notre Dame announced plans to potentially host more traditional ceremonies later this summer.

“I like that the district would like to do an in-person ceremony later to give us that experience… because I truly believe we can’t understand what it will feel like after high school because we have yet to closed that chapter,” Velarde said. 

The SUSD plan was supported by a survey of seniors that showed 80 percent supported rescheduling the event to a later date.

“Over 880 students responded. Overwhelmingly, at 80 percent, students told us they preferred a future, live gathering when safe to celebrate our 2020 class, as compared to other alternatives like virtual graduations, and added that they wanted to be able to see their teachers and fellow students in person to thank them and say goodbye…” said Saguaro senior Kayli Battel, president of the Scottsdale Student Advisory Board.

The May events will provide a chance to celebrate for students who may be gone by then due to post-graduation plans.

A Notre Dame spokesperson said the school has six seniors unable to attend summer ceremonies, because two are joining the military, three more must report to the West Point Military Academy and one to the Air Force Academy.

For others, it is just a chance to mark the occasion with hopes that an in-person ceremony will happen at a later date.

“I’m very grateful for my administration, because they truly are doing the best they can for us,” Velarde said. “I know it’s not just hard for the students, but for the teachers as well.”

Beyond videos, some SUSD high schools are taking additional steps to honor seniors.

Coronado High School Principal Amy Palatucci said the school plans to host a virtual senior awards ceremony and will hang a large banner at the school featuring a photo of the Class of 2020.

“I love our students and my heart breaks for our seniors that they will not end in a traditional fashion,” Palatucci said. 

Coronado High School is also providing celebratory yard signs that students can pick up at the school when they pick up their caps and gowns.

Seniors at Desert Mountain High School will have the chance to deposit something in a special time capsule purchased by their principal, Dr. Lisa Hirsch.

Hirsch said seniors can contribute to the time capsule when they pick up their yearbooks, diplomas and a “surprise gift”.

A plan to give Desert Mountain seniors a chance to say goodbye to their teachers is also in the works.

“We won’t call the last day a parade, but we are trying to make it so the seniors will be able to say goodbye to teachers, which is what they really want,” Hirsch said.