Prior Lake, Burnsville high schools announce virtual graduation ceremonies


PRIOR LAKE (swnewsmedia/Prior Lake American) – Late last week, the Minnesota Department of Education released guidelines for graduation ceremonies. The top recommendation: schools should hold ceremonies that can be conducted remotely and ensure attendees do not need to leave their homes, like a virtual ceremony.

“This year’s graduation ceremonies will look different than they traditionally do, and I am confident our schools will find creative ways to recognize the incredible work and commitment of our graduating students,” Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said in a statement.

While the guidelines do not allow for a gymnasium or football field gathering, it does provide public health guidance on what schools, colleges or universities would need to consider when contemplating a safe celebration outside of the home, such as a car parade or a parking lot ceremony.

“Graduation is an important occasion and accomplishment in a student’s academic journey and deserves to be celebrated,” Minnesota Department of Health Epidemiologist and COVID-19 School Liaison Susan Klammer said. “These guidelines were made with public health protection in mind, and by adhering to them, we can celebrate our students while safely navigating this challenge together.”

Area schools are taking the guidelines to heart.

Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools announced last week a virtual graduation ceremony will be held May 28 for Prior Lake High School graduates.

“We share the feelings of loss over having Senior year abruptly and unexpectedly cut short,” Prior Lake High School Principal John Bezek wrote in an email to families. “Please know that we are committed to making alternate plans to recognize Seniors and provide some measure of closure to their school career.”

In addition to the virtual ceremony, students will be provided the opportunity to walk across a stage as their name is read, Bezek said. This will take place over the course of several days.

A traditional ceremony is being planned for July 23 should the state’s guidance change before then.

A virtual commencement ceremony will be streamed for Burnsville High School students on Friday, June 5 at 6 p.m. on the district’s YouTube channel, according to the district. The virtual ceremony will feature messages from staff, student speakers and individual recognition of all graduates.

Students will receive their gap and gown, diploma cover and official ceremony program on Thursday, May 28.

A future event could be scheduled for early August depending on state guidance.

Burnsville Alternative High School will also host a virtual commencement ceremony featuring recognition of each graduate and recorded messages from student speakers and school staff. The ceremony will premiere on the district’s YouTube channel on Thursday, June 4 at 5 p.m.

Students graduating from the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage Transition program will receive their diplomas individually on Tuesday, June 2 between 2 and 5 p.m. at the River Ridge Education Center. Students will be assigned specific times.

District 191 Adult Education program graduates will receive their cap and gown, certificates and have a photo opportunity during the week of May 18 at the Diamondhead Education Center. On Thursday, June 4 a virtual commencement will be broadcast on YouTube.

“This year, maybe more than ever before, college students have been challenged in ways they never expected, both academically and personally,” Commissioner Dennis Olson, Minnesota Office of Higher Education, said. “I want to extend my heartfelt admiration and congratulations to each graduate for meeting this critical milestone in their life, and I wish them much success in the future.”


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