Local school districts opt for traditional in-person graduation ceremonies

New Paltz High School grads smile at adoring fans at a previous commencement ceremony. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

As statewide COVID-19 restrictions have relaxed in recent weeks, some local school districts are scrapping modified plans in favor of traditional graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2021.

Saugerties High School

Earlier this month, school officials announced that the Saugerties High School (SHS) Class of 2021 graduation ceremony would mimic the drive-in exercise from one year earlier. But late last week, Principal Tim Reid announced that the ceremony would instead be a traditional graduation held on the football field with no restrictions beyond requiring that unvaccinated people wear masks. 


The SHS Class of 2021 graduation ceremony will take place on Friday, June 25 at 6:30 p.m. and will be live-streamed for those who cannot attend in person. No tickets are needed to attend the ceremony.

Last year’s ceremony unfolded with almost military precision, with student vehicles lining up in the Cantine Veterans Memorial Complex by Gold Cord, Silver Cord and then the remainder of the class. The procession was then led onto the high school campus for the ceremony, which featured a combination of live and virtual elements broadcast onto a 30’-by-20’ screen hung on the outside wall of the auditorium, with audio broadcast through an FM booster. Students were then handed their diplomas on stage, after which the cars were led through the village in a celebratory parade; the parade will be the sole holdover for this year’s commencement exercise. 

For up-to-date information on the Class of 2021 graduation ceremony, visit: https://www.saugerties.k12.ny.us/Page/13548.

Kingston High School

Until late last week, the Kingston High School Class of 2021 graduation ceremony was still a big stride toward normalcy compared to 2020. But now, instead of two socially distanced ceremonies with two family tickets per graduate, there will be a single ceremony held at Dietz Stadium on Friday, June 25 at 5 p.m.

No tickets will be needed for the ceremony, which is open to the public, and, with the exception of a mask requirement for unvaccinated people, will look and feel like a traditional event. 

“Congratulations again to the KHS Class of 2021,” read a statement on the district website. “We are so pleased to be able to give these amazing seniors the graduation they have earned and deserve!”

In late May, school officials announced their annual commencement exercise would still be impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic, but because of the success of widespread vaccinations and other measures, what was ten small, socially distanced ceremonies over two days for the Class of 2020 was for the Class of 2021 to be two larger graduations at Dietz Stadium. An option for five separate ceremonies was also considered at the time. 

For more information, visit: https://www.kingstoncityschools.org/Page/4113.

Onteora High School

Onteora High School will celebrate the Class of 2021 with a slightly modified version of their traditional graduation ceremony planned to take place on the Onteora High football field on Friday, June 25 at 6 p.m.

“While the format of this event resembles our traditional graduation ceremony, several modifications were made to reduce the length of the ceremony, reduce the number of attendees, maximize social-distancing and follow the latest guidance from the state and county,” read a June 18 post on the district’s official website. “With everyone’s help and cooperation, we will have a memorable event.”

Each graduating senior will be given four guest tickets for the ceremony, which will include seating areas arranged in socially distanced pods of four. Masks are required for the ceremony for anyone over the age of four who has not been vaccinated. 

The district is further seeking to adhere to social distancing at the ceremony by arranging for a photographer to shoot high-quality photographs of the event, which will be made available through a shared Google Drive folder that can be accessed by all graduating seniors. The district is also looking into live-streaming the ceremony. 

For more information, visit: https://ohs.onteora.k12.ny.us/schools/hsgraduation.

New Paltz High School

As of press time, it does not appear that the New Paltz High School graduation ceremony has changed since early June when a final newsletter about the Class of 2021 commencement was sent to seniors. The ceremony will take place on Floyd Paterson Field at New Paltz High School on Friday, June 25 at 6 p.m.

The ticketed event will be limited to two guests per graduate, but it will be recorded and live-streamed for anyone who is not able to be there. Masks are encouraged for unvaccinated attendees. 

A dress code has been announced for graduates. 

“Graduation is an honored event,” reads the newsletter. “Students who take part in the ceremony are encouraged to wear the cap and gown unadorned. Proper attire, including dress pants, dresses, dress shoes or dress sandals (no sneakers), collar shirts and ties are encouraged.”

The newsletter closed with a note that if the state or county altered graduation guidance due to the COVID-19 pandemic the plan might be adjusted, but there has been no indication that it will open up to the degree that other local commencement exercises have. 

For more information, visit: https://sites.google.com/newpaltz.k12.ny.us/nphs-class-of-2021/home.