Perham 2021 graduation back indoors

A livestream option will be available for the public along with a parade prior to the ceremony on May 21.

Perham's class of 2019 became the first to graduate from the new high school. (Carter Jones/ FOCUS)

The HIVE will be buzzing with celebration for the class of 2021 with graduation returning to the formal indoor ceremony on May 21.

Each student will receive six tickets for their attendees. The pomp and circumstance of band and choir performances will honor the class of about 85 students. The students are an “outstanding” group, as high school Principal Ehren Zimmerman shared with the Perham school board on May 12.

“This graduation ceremony as a celebration that’s not necessarily their day but it’s their day to help celebrate with the parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and everybody who helped get them to that spot,” Zimmerman said about a message shared with seniors.

While indoor capacity limits are largely being removed on May 28 , the ceremony on May 21 will continue to follow the limits. Superintendent Mitch Anderson said moving the ceremony was not an option with the messiness of students already having graduation announcements printed and parties planned. The smaller class of students along with the large gym will allow for a good ceremony, Anderson said.

The student speakers will be Hope Rosen, Kaitlyn Johnson, Elayna Kawlewski and Lily Lorenson along with guest speaker Cory Solberg, Perham high school social studies teacher.


Prior to the ceremony, around 10:30 a.m. on May 21, students will again participate in a commencement parade that starts at the schools, travels down Highway 78, up Main Street and down Highway 80. Community members are invited to congratulate seniors by waving and cheering them on along the route.

Perham Commencement Caravan.jpg
The 2021 commencement parade will be on May 21 prior to the ceremony. The route starts at the schools, travels down Hwy 78, up Main Street and back on Hwy 80. Courtesy Perham Public Schools

You can also tune in live to the ceremony at 7 p.m. on May 21 through the school’s YouTube channel . The link will be available on the school website and Facebook .

School board addresses visitors vaccine frustrations

Betty Staebler asked if students will earn community service hours for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. She said the vaccine is an “experimental biological agent” and is not approved by the Federal Drug Administration. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved through the FDA under the emergency use authorization .

About one month ago, the district did decide to add the vaccine as a community service option following other school districts who have offered extra credit. Students who choose to receive the vaccine will not receive academic extra credit, Anderson said.

The district added the option because a few students were having a hard time completing the 16 required hours of community service due to events not happening. The community service list includes “a wide variety of options” like giving blood, participating in school activities and church services, Anderson said. The vaccine option did not eliminate other opportunities. The school also works with students to finish their hours and they are not withheld from graduation if the hours are not completed.

“They still have the same long list of opportunities,” Anderson said. “It’s (the vaccine option) not academic and it’s certainly not required or mandated, it’s up to them. If it fits for them and their stance on it, then it’s there for them to choose just like some of the other options.”


Staebler also noted concerns about federal privacy laws and if the school can be sued for side effects. Anderson said these do not apply since the vaccine is optional.

RELATED STORY: COVID-19 vaccination divides rural America

Another visitor, referred to only as Jenny, was adamantly opposed to the school having the option.

“This is an experimental drug, how dare you put that in there, ‘Oh come on, get this shot and then we’ll give you a freebie for it?’” Jenny said. “You don’t even know what this thing is going to do to people down the road and our kids they have the best immune systems there are. Why are you putting that in there?”

Jenny also questioned offering the vaccine to students under 18 years old. People under 18 years old are required to have parental consent. School board member Sue Von Ruden explained students do come into the school system with requirements for vaccinations for polio, chickenpox and other vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccine is not required for students or staff.

Zimmerman said people have also called the school in appreciation about the vaccine option. Students, with parental consent, could participate in a vaccination clinic at the school in April.

When administration continued explaining the optional nature of the vaccine, Jenny left the meeting.

In other action

Other business discussed by the board:


  • Heart of the Lakes elementary is expecting good enrollment for preschool and kindergarten in the fall.

  • The summer school programming will include social and life skills groups with counselor Katie Grosz for middle school students.

  • A total of $108,400 was available for the class of 2021 scholarships. Zimmerman and Anderson thanked the businesses and community for their support. Seniors, their parents and donating businesses were able to have an in-person ceremony. You can view the scholarship recipients online.

  • The district is hoping to work on an agricultural center for grades K-12 with the return of their greenhouse to the current buildings. The greenhouse was originally remaining at the old high school for use by groups as part of the community HUB project but interest waned, Zimmerman said. There would also be two classrooms for a science lab and instructional opportunities. The district is hoping to form a task force.

  • The high school enrollment dropped 14 students since April. Anderson said this is due to attendance and dropouts, among a variety of reasons. While this is “unfortunate” so close to the end of the school year, the district has about 75 more students than projected from the study prior to the 2015 school referendum.

  • Approved the 2021-22 school calendar. Students will again finish before Memorial Day.

  • Approved the termination of teacher contracts with Amy Haire and Charles Krueger. The positions were temporary ones paid for with federal CARES Act and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds.

  • Approved the acceptance of $1,070 in donations.

  • Approved posting for a special education teacher. Anderson said the number of student caseloads per teacher at the middle and high school are high.

  • The next school board meeting is May 19 at 5 p.m. in the high school media center. The board will be discussing the Heart of the Lakes Elementary kitchen remodel bids.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in enhancing online articles as well as education, feature and health reporting.
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