2020 Commencement: Celebrating Success One Graduate at a Time

As high schools and colleges across the country make changes to graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020, with many doing some form of an online virtual event, Des Moines Public Schools is now scheduling “personal commencements” for each of its graduates.

“Every aspect to the end of the 2019-20 school year has had to change due to the pandemic, including how we honor our graduates, but we want to provide our seniors an opportunity to be recognized for their accomplishments. The personal commencements will pay respect to the Class of 2020 in a way that is safe for them, their families, our staff and the community,” said Dr. Thomas Ahart, superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools. “As the list of cancelled summer events continues to grow, a traditional graduation ceremony at any point this year is unrealistic. We are all having to adapt to the circumstances, but that doesn’t lessen the significance of these commencements.”

The personal commencements will be held at each high school. Seniors will be assigned a time range for them and a maximum of two guests to arrive. Each senior will walk across stage in their cap and gown to receive their diploma and have a graduation photograph taken. As in past years, the events will be filmed and aired at a later date on DMPS-TV (Mediacom channel 12.1 or 812) and made available on the district and high school web sites and social media pages.

Measures such as physical distancing and limited guests will be strictly enforced at each event. (NOTE: please scroll down for additional health guidelines for graduates and their guests attending these events.)

Personal commencements at the five comprehensive high schools will take place on the following dates:

  • JUNE 6: Hoover High School
  • JUNE 7: North High School
  • JUNE 13: East High School
  • JUNE 14: Lincoln High School
  • JUNE 20: Roosevelt High School

Each event will begin at 10:00 AM, and will last most of the day. Graduates will be provided additional details, including specific times and locations for them and their two guests to arrive, by their high school.

In addition, similar events are being planned for the Focus alternative program on June 3, Scavo High School on June 5, and Ruby Van Meter School on June 12.


Des Moines Public Schools is committed to celebrating the Class of 2020 AND protecting the health and well-being of our students, staff and families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the following health-based guidelines will be followed for all of the DMPS personal commencement events: 

  • Everyone who enters a school building must wear a mask, or will not be allowed to enter (graduates may remove their mask as the cross the stage and have their portrait taken); if you have a mask of your own, please bring it with you
  • No more than 2 guests per graduate will be allowed to enter the school building
  • Physical distancing will be maintained between the graduate and their immediate family/guests, and the other attendees and staff
  • People who meet the following criteria should not attend:
    • Waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test
    • Have a fever or are otherwise feeling ill
    • Are in a high-risk group, including 65 years of age or older; are immunocompromised; have asthma, HIV or liver disease; or are otherwise at risk for severe illness

Please know that these requirements are being done in the best interest of our graduates, their guests and our staff. This is an unusual time, requiring unusual measures, but so long as we all cooperate in looking out for each other’s well-being we will be able to safely celebrate the success of the Class of 2020.