Thunder Mountain High School seniors celebrate their graduation on Sunday, May 26, 2019. The class of 2020 was forced to skip graduation ceremonies due to COVID-19 restrictions. Discussions are underway to allow the class of 2021 an opportunity to participate in commencement in accordance with CBJ's mitigation strategies. (Michael Penn /Juneau Empire File)

Plans coming together for COVID-conscious graduation, prom

Plans coming together for COVID-style graduation, prom

Forget coordinating tuxedos and prom dresses. Students at Thunder Mountain High School may soon be searching for masks that complement prom attire and arranging socially distanced photoshoots for posterity.

After a school year like no other, school officials are making plans for Juneau’s high school students to end the year with some of the cherished rituals that often mark the passing of the school year and the arrival of the summer.

Commencement exercises for both high schools and a socially distanced prom for TMHS are possibilities under consideration. Students at Juneau-Douglas Kalé High School voted not to hold a prom this year.

“I hope we can finish off the year on a positive note and be able to do some of the fun things these seniors missed out on due to COVID,” said TMHS principal Steve Morrow in an email to the Empire late last week. “My fingers are crossed!”

Morrow said that spring sports are underway and that plans are coming together for a music concert, senior awards, and scholarship presentations.

“We are attempting to have all of the events we possibly can within the limitations of what we are allowed to do,” he said.

Prom plans

Students at TMHS have submitted a request to hold a prom in the school gym. In the proposal, students outlined COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

“If approved, mitigation will be in place that include masking, social distancing, and limited participation,” Morrow said.

He said that students hoping for prom will learn more this week. The final decision will depend on factors such as the overall COVID-19 caseload in Juneau and the resolution of the small cluster of cases identified at Thunder Mountain last week.

CBJ introduces new vaccine strategy

Graduation ceremonies

After the class of 2020 missed out on traditional commencement ceremonies, school officials are reviewing plans to allow seniors to experience graduation ceremonies this spring.

In a meeting last week, school officials said that they are working to find ways to accommodate students and families within City and Borough of Juneau’s gathering guidelines.

To adhere to city guidelines, graduation ceremonies are likely to take place outside. With the move outside, commencement times may need to be adjusted.

School officials are likely to have more guidance on city rules this week as city Assembly members review what mitigation strategies to maintain as citywide vaccination rates grow. City Assembly members are expected to vote on revised mitigation measures, including the number of people who can safely gather outside, Monday night.

How will climbing vaccine rates affect the local mask mandate, traveler testing

Expanded eligibility for commencement participation

During a special meeting Saturday afternoon, school board members unanimously approved a measure to allow students who were enrolled in the Juneau School District before the suspension of in-person learning to participate in commencement ceremonies, even if they left the district for a distance-delivery or home-school program to complete their studies.

While eligible to walk across the graduation stage, these students will not receive a Juneau School District diploma nor honors recognition.

This one-year policy variance applies to any student who participated in a recognized home school program listed in the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development’s online directory.

Board member Emil Mackey, who introduced the measure, said that parents had asked for the option to participate in graduation ceremonies even if the pandemic-related pause on in-person learning meant that a student had completed senior year outside of Juneau’s schools.

When introducing the policy exception, he said the move shows the community values education and recognizes the effect the pandemic has had on students and families.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at or 907-308-4891.

More in News

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File
The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014.
Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of March. 19

Gov. Mike Dunleavy discusses his proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year during a press conference at the Alaska State Capitol in December 2022. A lower-than-expected revenue forecast is raising questions about what the state's spending plan will ultimately look like. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Lower revenue forecast increases budget woes for state lawmakers

Coming up with a spending plan for next year and beyond will be a complex series of negotiations.

Office Max at the Nugget Mall in the Mendenhall Valley advertised Permanent Fund dividend sales in July 2020. Alaskans have until the end of the month to apply for the PFD. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
PFD application deadline is next week

Amount in flux as state revenue forecasts lower than expected.

This is a photo of the current site plan of the proposed Capital Civic Center. On Monday night the Assembly authorized $5 million to go toward the project that is expected to cost $75 million. (City and Borough of Juneau)
City OKs $5M toward proposed Capital Civic Center

The money is intended to show the city’s commitment to the project as it seeks federal funding

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, March 21, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This September 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female Southern Resident killer whale (J16) swimming with her calf (J50). New research suggests that inbreeding may be a key reason that the Pacific Northwest’s endangered population of killer whales has failed to recover despite decades of conservation efforts. The so-called “southern resident” population of orcas stands at 73 whales. That’s just two more than in 1971, after scores of the whales were captured for display in marine theme parks around the world. (NOAA Fisheries / Vancouver Aquarium)
The big problem for endangered orcas? Inbreeding

Southern resident killer whales haven’t regularly interbred with other populations in 30 generations.

Juneau Brass Quintet co-founding member Bill Paulick along with Stephen Young performs “Shepherd’s Hey” to a packed house at the Alaska State Museum on Saturday as part of the quintet’s season-ending performance. Friends of the Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum sponsored the event with proceeds going to the musicians and FoSLAM. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Top brass turns out for event at State Museum

Free performance puts a capt on a busy season.

Alaska’s state legislators are slated to get the equivalent of 6,720 additional $5 bills in their salary next year via a $33,600 raise to a total of $84,000 due to a veto Monday by Gov. Mike Dunleavy of bill rejecting raises for legislative and executive branch employees. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)
Veto negates rejection of pay hikes for governor, legislators

Dunleavy clears way for 67% hike in legislative pay, 20% in his to take effect in coming months

Most Read