Canby High School Returns to In-Person Graduation for 2021

Although there are still some details yet to work out, the Canby School District plans to return to an in-person graduation ceremony next month to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the Class of 2021.

Only juniors when the world was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, this class spent more than a calendar year grappling with various distance, online and hybrid models of learning that their previous public school careers had done little to prepare them for.

“This senior class has truly made lemonade out of the lemons they have been dealt,” said Canby High Athletic Director Ben Winegar. “They’ve found a way to practice all year long through the guidance given them, completed every opportunity and represented the community with pride.”

Winegar pointed out how the class adapted not only to four different learning models over the course of the year, but also met the unprecedented challenges of historic wildfires last September and the devastating ice storms of February.

“This group has truly reacted well to the adversity that has been thrown at them,” he said. “I look forward to seeing where the future takes them because any challenge will dwarf in comparison to the events of the last 15 months.”

“This senior class has shown their adaptability and resilience as we switched learning models,” Associate Principal Cari Sloan agreed. “They found a way to make their senior year special in a unique way. I’m so proud of them.”

While Canby High School had no choice but to pivot to a virtual graduation ceremony for its Class of 2020, falling case counts around the county and state — coupled with the continued vaccine rollout — have made administrators optimistic that a return to some normalcy will happen this June.

“There are basically two options in play right now,” explained Principal Greg Dinse. “Our final plan will all be determined on the risk level at the time of graduation.”

Seniors representing the Class of 2019 march at Cougar Stadium during the school’s last in-person graduation ceremony. File photo.

If Clackamas County is in the low-risk category for Covid-19 — either because the countywide vaccination rate surpasses 65% or weekly case counts drop below 50 new infections — the high school will host a single ceremony at 7 p.m.

Both scenarios, however, appear unlikely at this stage. The county’s vaccination rate is barely above 60% and slowing, while weekly case numbers are falling but still over 180.

So, organizers will probably go with Plan B, where the Class of 2021 will graduate in two cohorts, or groups — one at 6 p.m. and one at 8.

In either case, graduation will take place on Friday, June 11, at Cougar Stadium. Tickets will be limited to two per senior.

The ceremonies will be exactly the same, Dinse said. Administrators will adjust and update plans accordingly as guidance surrounding schools and outdoor commencement ceremonies continues to change.

One tradition that will also live on is the fireworks show that typically coincides with the 1812 Overture to end the ceremony.

Finally, students, staff, volunteers and spectators will not be required to wear face coverings at the outdoor ceremony, district officials said in an email Monday. Until and unless further guidance is issued, all previous physical distancing and capacity restrictions will still apply.

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