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'It was really special': Class of 2021 becomes Spokane Public Schools' first to graduate in Riverfront Park

Seniors from seven schools in the Spokane Public Schools district graduated in ceremonies at the Riverfront Park Pavilion.

SPOKANE, Wash. — On Sunday afternoon, crews at the Riverfront Park Pavilion in downtown Spokane rushed to reset the venue between graduation ceremonies for Lewis and Clark and Ferris High Schools.

Seven Spokane Public Schools district high schools in total are sending off the class of 2021 from the Riverfront Park Pavilion - the first time the district has used the venue for the ceremonies. For the Lewis and Clark High School seniors, who was the first group of three to receive their diplomas on Sunday, it was a special sendoff for a class that faced a difficult final year.

"It was a wonderful experience getting to see her graduate and the class of 2021 walk across the stage," said Kelley Damon, mother of LCHS graduate Ella Damon. "This day was beautiful and the park was a perfect setting for their graduation. I'm so excited for them."

The district held graduations virtually in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the hundreds of students and their loved ones in attendance, having the ceremony back in person in the iconic venue was well-received.

"It was so beautiful. I just think Spokane is growing so much and its so wonderful to have that place to have concerts and fireworks and I thought the graduation was perfect there," said Linda Pirch, mother of LCHS graduate Olivia Pirch.

There were some COVID-19 restrictions still in place. In line with Governor Jay Inslee's reopening guidelines, there was a separate section for those who had been vaccinated. Masks were also required for both guests and students. 

With limited attendance available, a screen was set up near the clocktower in Riverfront Park for people to watch the ceremony, and it was also streamed on local television and the internet. 

With high temperatures gracing Spokane on Sunday, some people chose to watch the screens in the park from shade under trees. But even with the high temperatures, it was important to the students to have one last day to celebrate together with their friends.

"It was amazing, just to be able to be with the entire class, because we were in person but it was only half of the class, so it was great to see the entire class," said graduating senior Audriana Alfaro.

"Yes, and it was really important for us to celebrate together and I think it was really nice that we all got to do it," said fellow graduating senior Olivia Pirch.

"It was really special to have all of both cohorts together, and see all of the people I wouldn't typically see on my 'B' school days. So, it was nice," said graduating senior Ella Damon.