Updated 10:45 a.m. Thursday

Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools will be returning to an in-person graduation ceremony for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Last year Gov. Tim Walz announced that indoor and stadium-based graduation ceremonies would be prohibited in an attempt to mitigate the further spread of the coronavirus. State officials recommended at the time that virtual ceremonies, car parades or parking lot ceremonies take place of the traditional ceremony.

Prior Lake High School and Bridges Area Learning Center class of 2021 will hold its commencement ceremony at Dan Patch Stadium, 7575 150th St. W, at the high school. Commencement is scheduled for Friday, June 11 at 7 p.m.

A 'traditional' graduation

Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools officials said their goal is to balance safety and have as traditional of a graduation ceremony as they can at Dan Patch Stadium.

Kristi Mussman, director of communications, said with the easing of outdoor COVID capacity restrictions, they do not need to limit spectators. 

A graduation rain date will be set on Tuesday June, 15 as a backup date instead of moving the ceremony indoors. Under current restrictions, an indoor ceremony would not be possible due to current safety requirements.

Jacqueline Jordan, head building secretary, said masks will be optional per Gov. Walz's lifting of the statewide mask order.

"How we set up the field, students are already socially distanced," said Jordan. 

Jordan said school officials understand that some graduates may be hesitant or unable to attend an in-person graduation. For those who want to pick up their diploma in a smaller setting which allows students to walk across a stage in their cap and gown and take a picture, they will have that option available.

"We'll be doing that on Monday June, 14. Graduates will have their family come and then they'll be able to take pictures of them on the stage getting their diploma from Dr. Bezek," said Jordan.

This option will be similar to the format they used for graduates last year, and it will be offered regardless of the ceremony format.

Jordan said an email will be sent out to parents with more detailed information on Friday, June 4. Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools will continue to plan using the most up-to-date guidance from public health officials. 

Class of 2021

Prior Lake High School will be graduating 689 seniors and the Bridges Area Learning Center will be graduating 65, making that a total of 754 seniors.

Mussman said this year's graduating class were determined in the face of adversity.

"I think its an exceptional group of students that are graduating this year that have been through a lot and have learned flexibility and perseverance and patience," said Mussman.

Dr. John Bezek, principal of Prior Lake High School, said he is proud of the class of 2021 and they are ready to face the world.

"The past 15 months have not been easy, but I have been impressed with the class of 2021 and their flexibility, resilience and ability to focus on the positive and I believe these traits will serve them well in the future," said Bezek.

Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools will be livestreaming the commencement ceremony at www.priorlake-savage.k12.mn.us/our-schools/plhs/seniors