Area high schools plan for a weekend full of graduations

Many schools around the area are hosting commencement ceremonies over the next few days -- some more traditionally, and others in more pandemic-friendly formats.

Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig valedictorian Chelsey Ducheneaux picks up her diploma during the school's 2020 drive-in graduation ceremony. (Pioneer file photo)

BEMIDJI -- Memorial Day weekend is shaping up to be a big one for local seniors as many schools around the area are hosting commencement ceremonies over the next few days.

The recent updating of guidance from the Center for Disease Control has led many schools to rethink their original graduation plans. Here is what area schools are doing to celebrate graduates in the upcoming weeks.

Bemidji High School

In addition to the procession plans outlined in the May 14 edition of the Pioneer, on May 24, BHS principal Jason Stanoch announced an additional component of the Saturday, May 29 celebration.

“Due to a recent update from MDE around health protocols for graduation ceremonies, we are now able to safely allow our graduates an opportunity to walk across the stage publicly and be celebrated as a graduating class of Bemidji High School,” Stanoch wrote in a letter to families.

Students will be able to walk the stage on the Bemidji High School football field and track immediately following the radio broadcast of the graduation procession and celebration. Participation in this extra event is optional.


After receiving their diploma, graduates and their families can make the choice to return to the parking lot area to wait to “walk the stage” or are able to exit the parade route and go about their day as scheduled, the letter continued.

Only those spectators in the vehicles with graduates will be able to attend the field event.

“We will then call the name of each participating senior, have them walk the stage -- our bleachers -- take a seat to honor their classmates, turn their tassels, toss their caps, and have many picture-taking opportunities,” Stanoch wrote. “This event is scheduled rain or shine.”

More information about the procession and the following event is available on the Bemidji High School website .

Voyageurs Expeditionary School

Voyageurs Expeditionary School will host a commencement ceremony for its class of 2021 at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 28, at Diamond Point Park in Bemidji. The ceremony will take place in the large park pavilion.

TrekNorth High School

TrekNorth will honor its graduating class with a ceremony at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 28, at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds. Graduates have been asked to arrive by 4:45 p.m. for photos and instructions.

There is no longer a limit to the number of guests each graduate can have there is plenty of space at the fairgrounds, a letter to TrekNorth families said.

Attendees will be required to leave the fairgrounds immediately after the ceremony. Masks are recommended for all graduates and guests. The event will be held rain or shine, attendees will be sheltered from any possible rain under the grandstand.


Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School

Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School will honor its class of 2021 at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 27. The drive-up commencement format used for the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig class of 2020 will stay in place again this year. Though the class of graduating students is small, School Director Dan McKeon said, many wanted to bring with them carloads of well-wishers, making the drive-up format the safest.

Red Lake Secondary School

Red Lake High School will celebrate its graduating class with a drive-in graduation ceremony followed by a parade escort around the area. The event will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 29.

Following the graduation ceremony, Red Lake Law Enforcement, Department of Natural Resources, Ambulance, Fire Department and Red Lake Schools buses will escort the graduates throughout town. The planned route is to depart from the Red Lake Secondary Complex, passed by the Trading Post, Red Lake Law Enforcement Center, and then go around the Mission School corner, turn towards the Red Lake Elementary school, go down past the Red Lake DNR and return to the Red Lake Secondary Complex where the escort will end.

“Our seniors would love to be recognized. If anyone would like to make posters, honk your vehicle horn, give a shout out, or wave 'Congratulations to the RLHS Class of 2021' as they pass by your place of business or Highway 1, please do,” the announcement said.

Cass Lake Bena High School

The drive-thru graduation ceremony for graduates of the Cass Lake Bena High School will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 28.

The circular route will go from the Casino to Indian Health Services, Seventh St. NW, to R&R (Grant Utley Drive), take a right onto Second Street, cross Highway 371, come back on Third Street, left on Grant Utley Drive, right on Second Street, right on Oak Street, and then weave to Fox Creek, to the bus entrance of the school where students will receive their diplomas. Banners of graduating seniors will be posted along the streets of Cass Lake.

Kelliher School

Graduation will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 29, in the Kelliher School Gymnasium.

Each senior will have a designated area with chairs set up on the gym floor with seating for six family members. All graduates will be seated in front of the stage. There will be extra seating for family and friends in the bleachers.


Bagley High School

A graduation ceremony for the Bagley High School class of 2021 will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 28, and is expected to last about an hour. Following this, a parade will start from the old football field around 8:45 p.m. and will follow the same route as the Homecoming and All-School Reunion parades.

The entire community is encouraged to line the streets, wave, bring signs and cheer for these seniors, the announcement said.

Blackduck High School

Graduation for Blackduck’s class of 2021 will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 4, at Blackduck High School. All are welcome to attend.

Hannah Olson is a multimedia reporter for the Pioneer covering education, Indigenous-centric stories and features.
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