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Steilacoom’s De’Andre Napier returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown during the first quarter. Steilacoom played Ridgefield in a football game at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Wash., on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. JOSHUA BESSEX JOSHUA.BESSEX@GMAIL.CO

Washington high school stadiums turning on stadium lights Friday night to recognize Class of 2020

By Jon Manley - Tacoma News Tribune, 04/14/20, 8:30AM PDT


This Friday, April 17, school districts around the state will be turning on their high school stadium lights at 8:20 p.m. (20:20 Military Time) to honor the Class of 2020.

Some high school athletic directors and other school administrators who plan on participating have been using the hashtag #BeTheLightWA on Twitter. The Peninsula School District, which is home to Peninsula and Gig Harbor high schools, is among those participating. Peninsula athletic director Ross Filkins said the lights will be on for 20 minutes at Roy Anderson Field on Friday night.

“It’s just a symbol of the connection between our school and our community,” Filkins said. “I hope that in a small way, it’s something that they can keep connected to the school and the community. They put a big footprint on what they did here. Hopefully it resonates with them.”

While the gesture is intended to recognize every senior student, it also serves as a nod to spring sports athletes, who have lost out completely on their senior seasons, and any league, district or state championships that would accompany them — along with the memories that would have been made along the way.

“We’re certainly feeling for all of them,” Filkins said. “Just the timing of it. We were gearing up, kids have been working really hard for years for their sports. And we were coming up on the season for AP testing, prom, all these big things, the entirety of the spring sports season. It’s tough to see the impact on that, just the loss of connectivity.”

With Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order extended in an effort to continue curbing the spread of COVID-19 and schools officially canceled through the remainder of the school year, it’s an uncertain time for high school seniors. While students are supposed to still be learning and doing school work remotely, the scope of that work has varied depending on school district and social demographics, with some students not having the resources to be able to engage in full-time online learning.

It remains to be seen what type of closure will be afforded to high school students, with ideas still being tossed around for graduation ceremonies and no concrete plans solidified in most districts, as of now. Packing thousands of students into an event center — along with their families — seems unlikely. Districts are floating possible ideas that would comply with social distancing guidelines, with open areas and smaller groups among possibilities.

But moving graduation ceremonies online seems most likely, with schools mailing diplomas out to students individually. And just like that, high school will be over for high school students, with no final chance to say goodbye in person to all their friends and teachers.

While the uncertainty continues, Filkins said he hopes the stadium lights are a simple reminder to the Class of 2020 during a difficult time for everyone.

“Just something to recognize them, make sure they understand and their achievements are not going unnoticed or unrecognized,” Filkins said. “Just a simple gesture we can do just to recognize all they’ve done.”