Despite Pandemic, Catoosa High School To Hold In-Person Graduation For Crowd Of Up To 1,200

May 21, 2020

Catoosa High School seniors will be some of the first Tulsa-area students to be graduating via a traditional, in-person commencement ceremony since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to the school community sent on Wednesday, Catoosa High Principal Josh Brown confirmed that the ceremony would take place at the school's football stadium on Thursday evening (or this weekend, if weather forces a postponement). 

"We are currently coordinating with the Oklahoma Health Department, Oklahoma State Department of Education, City of Catoosa, and referencing the Governor’s OURS plan as well as CDC guidelines in order to keep those attending as safe as possible," the letter reads.

Reached by phone on Thursday morning, Catoosa Campus Police Chief Sam Brown said they are anticipating up to 1,200 attendees in the bleachers, in addition to faculty, staff, and 120 graduating seniors.

Asked if the school was sure they could keep students and families safe while most other schools have balked at hosting in-person ceremonies, Brown said he hopes so.

"We're going to do our level best," he said. "You have to have a ticket to get in, you have to be scanned with a thermometer, those types of things."

The letter from the school's principal says that in addition to temperature checks, guests will be required to wear masks while entering or standing, though they can be removed once seated. Friends and family will at no point be allowed to walk onto the field to greet or take pictures with graduates.

"We MUST follow guidelines to be able to have this event," the letter reads. "Anyone not following the rules will be escorted out."

The majority of other area high schools have either canceled, postponed, or modified graduations. Some Tulsa Public Schools graduating seniors are receiving their diplomas in "drive-through" ceremonies. Owasso High School is planning a virtual ceremony if they deem an in-person graduation still unsafe due to the coronavirus next month.