FARMINGTON -- High school graduation season kicks off with in-person ceremonies for Prairie Grove High at 6 p.m. today, followed by Farmington graduation on Tuesday and Lincoln's commencement on Thursday.
The ceremonies will look different than those last summer for the Class of 2020. All three high schools held in-person commencements in 2020 but restricted the number of guests who could attend. In addition, everyone was required to wear masks and social distancing was in place for graduates and guests.
For the Class of 2021, the three high schools are planning outdoor graduation with masks optional and no restrictions on the number of guests that can attend the celebration.
Jon Purifoy, Farmington High principal, said the school is asking guests to leave space between families but he isn't worried about capacity at Cardinal Stadium. Farmington usually has 3,000-4,000 guests for graduation, and the stadium's capacity can handle much more than that, he said.
If it rains, graduation will be held the next night at the stadium. Purifoy said he doesn't want to move graduation indoors because he would have to implement some restrictions because of covid-19.
"We're treating this just like a normal graduation," Purifoy said. "It's a relief for our community and our students to be able to have a normal graduation after such a rough year and a half. I think we'll end the year on a positive note."
Purifoy said he's glad all family members will be able to attend graduation and see it in person.
As in past ceremonies, graduates will march in with the faculty following them. Farmington High Band and the honor choir also will perform for graduation, as they have in the past. Last year, neither group was able to participate because of covid-19 restrictions for large gatherings. Music was played over the sound system.
Purifoy said he will keep two precautions that were used for the 2020 graduation. He will not shake each graduate's hand and present a diploma. Instead, graduates will be announced one by one, and they will pick up their diploma from a table on the stage. Then, they will walk to the front of the stage for a graduate photo.
He said it's not necessary for him to be in the photo with a graduate.
"It's all about the kids," he said.
Jed Davis, Prairie Grove High principal, said the Tiger graduation ceremony will look like any other "normal" year with the band and choir performing, and separate musical performances and speeches by several of the seniors.
Masks are optional and both sides of the stadium will be open for seating.
"We're going to distance as best we can but we're not limiting guests," Davis said.
The graduates will be seated on chairs about three feet apart on the football field during the ceremony.
"I'm really excited these seniors get to have a normal graduation," Davis said. "They have missed out on quite a few things their senior years. It's nice to be able to give them a final send-off with a graduation that is as normal as possible."
Prairie Grove has about 125 graduating seniors.
If there is inclement weather, graduation will be moved inside to Tiger Arena. Davis said the basketball arena will be fully set up for the ceremony. If graduation moves inside, the school will let the seats fill up to a certain point, and then guests will be directed to the volleyball gym to watch a video feed of the ceremony.
Lincoln will not have any restrictions for its 2021 graduation and no limits on the number of people who can attend, according to Mary Ann Spears, superintendent of schools.
If it is raining or inclement weather, graduation will be moved indoors to the basketball arena with each senior allowed a limited number of tickets. Masks will be required inside, she said.
Lincoln's Class of 2021 has 85 seniors, Spears said.
Prairie Grove High
• 6 p.m., today, Tiger Stadium
• 7 p.m., Tuesday, Cardinal Stadium
• 7 p.m., Thursday, Wolf Stadium