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Some area high school graduations returning to pre-coronavirus indoor venues

Lakota East graduation.jpg
Posted at 7:00 AM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 07:00:03-04

Some upcoming area high school graduations in the second spring of the coronavirus will be conducted in the pre-pandemic fashion: inside.

And at least one local high school is going to a nationally known sports stadium for the first in nearly four decades.

Thanks to the spreading application of vaccines, demonstrated safety of social distancing and masks, local school officials said they have more options than they did with the spring 2020 commencements, many of which were postponed and held outside.

Butler County’s largest school system, the 16,800-student Lakota Schools, is returning to the indoor ceremony format and its traditional venue of Xavier University’s Cintas Center but with some significant restrictions, said school officials.

The district includes two of Ohio’s most populous high schools – Lakota East and Lakota West. Both held outdoor graduations in their school parking lots last year with families spending most of their time in cars.

“While we know that graduation will look different than in years past, we are looking forward to the Class of 2021 to experience this Lakota tradition. Each school will hold two ceremonies so that our graduates can have up to four guests attend in person,” said Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for Lakota, who said Cintas will also livestream each ceremony.

Like some other area high schools, Lakota is splitting up its graduating seniors into multiple ceremonies to make adhering to state and local health regulations on gatherings easier.

Lakota East’s ceremonies will take place on May 19 at 5 and 8 p.m. Lakota West’s on May 21 at 5 and 8 p.m.

Also, returning to celebrate graduation at Cintas is Fairfield and Kings Schools.

Gina Gentry-Fletcher, spokeswoman for the 10,000-student Fairfield district, said commencement will be split into two ceremonies divided alphabetically.

“We believe this is the best option for our graduates and their families as we continue to navigate the ever-changing circumstances of this pandemic,” said Gentry-Fletcher, whose district last year held a family only graduation outdoors in its district stadium.

Dawn Gould, spokeswoman for Kings, said the spacious Cintas Center, which holds more than 10,000, is ideal for safe distancing and restricted gatherings.

“We believe this is the best option for our graduates and their families as we continue to navigate the ever-changing circumstances of this pandemic,” said Gould.

But Warren County’s largest district, Mason Schools, is returning to a venue it last used in 1983.

Last year, Mason conducted one of the more unusual coronavirus-safe graduations as school buses carrying district officials traveled to each graduate’s home, handing out diplomas and celebrating outside.

But this year, Mason officials recently announced, graduation will be nearby and outside on center court at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, home of one of professional tennis’ major tournaments and last used by the school in 1983.

Commencement for Mason High School, which has the largest enrollment in Ohio, will be 2 p.m. May 23.

“Throughout this process, we clearly heard that students most hoped to have one commencement ceremony where they could cheer on each of their classmates,” said Tracey Carson, spokeswoman for the district.

“We also heard from many families about how important it was to be able to offer as many guest tickets as possible. We are confident we can safely hold an outdoor commencement ceremony that will fulfill both of these important student and family considerations by ensuring one in-person commencement ceremony and giving each student at least 6 tickets for loved ones,” said Carson.

School officials urge families to check with local public school district and private school websites for the latest commencement information.

The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO 9 News.