Northwestern High School’s class of 2021 will walk across the football field to receive their diplomas this year. An outdoor commencement is planned for 7:30 p.m. May 28 in the football stadium, with a contingency plan to move indoors if necessary.

Principal Mark Carlson alerted parents about the commencement plans Friday, April 16, after meeting with the senior class to decide the format. He credited students in the computer-aided drafting class for helping mapping out an event that allows for as many guests as possible while maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols.

Graduation will not be open to the public due to limited seating. Each graduating senior will be given four tickets for guests to sit in the bleachers. An additional four “standing room-only” tickets will be available to seniors for guests to stand along the fence, as fans do during football games. Students will be seated on the field.

RELATED:

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Graduates and guests will gather outside the stadium following the ceremony. In place of the annual All-Night Chemical Free After Graduation Party, the school will host a "tailgate" event featuring food, games and a prize giveaway for the seniors following graduation practice the morning of the ceremony.

“It is extremely important to the seniors and all the families to have this in person ceremony because hopefully this event will remind the students their achievement of graduating, despite the hardships of this pandemic year, is valued by us,” District Administrator Sara Croney said. “We as a community want to celebrate them on May 28.”

Graduation will take place in the lower gymnasium in the event of bad weather. The decision on whether to move the event indoors will be made the morning of commencement, Carlson said. Students would be seated on the gym floor, where the ceremony would take place. Guest seating would be available in the bleachers, balcony and on the floor behind the graduates.

The four bleacher tickets allotted to each senior can be used for seats in the lower gym. Only two of each senior’s “standing room-only” tickets would be honored, however, due to limited space. Those guests would be seated in an overflow viewing section in the upper gym.

“We are trying to fit as many people in the audience as safely as possible,” Croney said. “I deeply appreciate all the work of Mr. Carlson, his planning committee and the students from the computer-aided drafting class that created the seating designs for both the athletic complex and lower gym.”

Graduates and guests must follow Maple School District’s mandates regarding wearing masks and social distancing for indoor and outdoor activities. Additional details will be released soon, Carlson said. He encouraged the parents of seniors to be watching their email for updates.

This story was updated at 1:52 p.m. April 27 with quotes from the district administrator. The initial version was posted at 10:32 a.m. April 27.