May 19—MANKATO — High school graduates in Mankato will once again get to accept their diplomas in front of all their classmates and family members.
The pandemic pushed graduation ceremonies into virtual, drive-in and other unique formats last spring. Minnesota State University and South Central College also held alternative observances for their graduates again this spring.
But Mankato high schools are returning to more traditional ceremonies — with new venues and other coronavirus precautions.
Loyola Catholic School seniors will be the first to walk to the "Pomp and Circumstance Marches" on Sunday evening.
Weather permitting, the ceremony will be held outdoors on the football field. The stands have enough capacity that Principal Adam Bemmels said the 25 graduates can invite as many friends and families as they like and no masks will be required.
If it rains, the ceremony will move indoors to its traditional location, the school gymnasium. Attendance then would be limited to six guests per graduate and masks would be required.
A livestream of the ceremony also will be broadcast at vimeo.com/loyolacatholicschool.
Seniors at East and West high schools will walk across a stage at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center this year. Both ceremonies will be June 4, with Cougars celebrating at 5:30 p.m. and Scarlets at 8 p.m.
It's a larger space than the usual site — Minnesota State University's Bresnan Arena — allowing each graduate to bring up to eight guests.
There will be masks and social distancing between families, but West Principal Sherri Blasing said the ceremonies otherwise will follow tradition.
"We are very grateful to the city of Mankato and the Event Center for partnering with us and providing a venue where we can safely hold a near-normal commencement ceremony," Blasing said.
The graduation ceremonies cap the resumption of many spring traditions, but with some pandemic modifications. East, West and Loyola students also had proms, are performing in-person music concerts and will have awards nights.
On Wednesday Loyola seniors celebrated baccalaureate Mass and held their traditional parade through the school as younger students and teachers lined the hallways to congratulate them. East and West students also will return to their elementary schools for parades later this month.
There is one change at East and West high schools: Classes will end a week early for many students. Only students who need help catching up on assignments will attend virtual and in-person classes June 1-4.