Going Virtual, Not Viral: Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremonies

After more than a century of graduates walking across a stage to be handed their diploma, 2020 is a year when a new approach is necessary. That is why Des Moines Public Schools will be holding virtual commencements this year in order to help lessen the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The virtual graduation ceremonies will be shown starting Saturday, June 27.

“While all of us at Des Moines Public Schools miss our students, we feel especially bad for our seniors having to endure the most unusual ending to a school year any of us have ever experienced,” said Superintendent Tom Ahart. “While we cannot hold a traditional commencement this year, we want to celebrate our graduates as best we can under the circumstances. We want each member of the Class of 2020 to know that we care for them, that we are going to miss them, and that we respect what they have accomplished.”

A virtual graduation ceremony for each high school will first be presented on Saturday, June 27. The video event will feature brief remarks from the principal and a student speaker, a roll call of the Class of 2020 (featuring each graduate’s name and photo), and recognition of awards. Additional elements to the events are also being considered, with more details announced in the weeks ahead.

The virtual graduation will be shown on DMPS-TV (Mediacom channel 12.1 or 812) as well as on the DMPS and high school web sites and social media pages.

“In some ways, this decision was harder than deciding not to reopen schools, but given the lack of clarity and transparency around the COVID-19 pandemic this is the only decision that’s in the interest of the health and well-being of our students and families,” added Ahart. “But here’s the upside: this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us, including our graduates, and something we will tell our children and grandchildren about.”

Graduates will be picking up their caps and gowns in mid-May. They will be notified by their home high schools with further details. In addition, the school district will be schedule a Photo Day for all graduates at their home high schools, which will be included in the virtual commencements.