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Centennial Middle School parents not invited to 8th grade graduation assembly

Parents are invited to a BBQ picnic on the football field after the ceremony, but only students and staff will attend the "school success assembly."

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — West Valley School District moms Rebecca Lee and Kimberly Hutchins look at the transition from middle school to high school as a monumental moment.

That's why Lee and Hutchins were disappointed to learn they wouldn't be able to be in the room to see their daughters sing in the choir and be recognized for their academic achievements.

"We want to be there," Lee said.

Instead of a traditional graduation ceremony, Centennial Middle School is hosting what the district calls a "school success assembly."

At that assembly, 185 8th graders will be individually recognized in front of staff and their peers.

Superintendent Kyle Rydell and principal Karen Woolworth said the adjusted ceremony was created during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that COVID restrictions have lifted, Hutchins said parents should be able to watch their kids walk across the stage.

"It's sad," Hutchins said. "I only have one daughter and parents should be allowed in."

Parents are invited to a barbecue picnic after the event on the school's football field, but Lee and Hutchins said that isn't enough.

"We want to be able to take our pictures, cheer them on," Lee said. "This group has worked so hard. They started online and didn't get the beginning middle school experience. To just end it like this is kind of ridiculous. It's really frustrating.” 

Woolworth said the assembly is more inclusive for students who may not have someone who can show up for them. She also said the ceremony has been well-received in previous years. 

Woolworth said hosting the assembly was a joint decision between parents, students and staff. 

Lee and Hutchins said their voices and other parent voices haven't been heard for months.

"Me and another parent went to the first PTO meeting in regards to 8th grade promotion, I believe April 26," Hutchins said. "We went because we found out we weren't allowed at the ceremony through an inside source. When we went where PTO was supposed to discuss these concerns, we were met with 'this will not be a debate, there will not be a discussion.'"

"We've spoken to the superintendent," Lee said. "We've spoken to the principal. We were told there would not be any exceptions, they won’t be changing anything and we aren't allowed.”

Lee and Hutchins said the district has not done a great job at communicating the specifics of the ceremony to parents.

Lee said when she first heard about the barbecue, she thought that is where she'd be watching her daughter graduate.

Hutchins said she received an email notice from the PTO president stating, "The promotion will be held on Thursday, June 15 with a ceremony in the gym from 11:30-12:30 for staff and students followed by a reception and picnic lunch provided by the school for families and students in the tennis court/football field area." 

Lee said she didn't receive this email because she isn't on the email list.

Woolworth said students will still be celebrated and cheered on, even without parents in the room.

Rydell said the school is open to feedback for future events.

Lee and Hutchins said while it's likely nothing will change before the ceremony next Thursday, they hope speaking on their concerns will inspire future change for other 8th grade clases.

The district said schools are individually responsible for deciding how to honor its students.

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