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When the second half of the spring semester was canceled nationwide, the Class of 2020 became the class of COVID-19.
Graduation is the culmination of 13 years of work. A graduation at one of Collin County’s local high schools is an especially monumental event, one that packs auditoriums like a Post Malone concert. A graduation in Collin County might mean a class of more than 1,500 students. It’s no small thing. Like a concert, graduation is inherently meant to be experienced as a crowd. It’s also the last time that a graduating class will ever be together.
This year, however, students left from spring break in March with no idea that they wouldn’t be coming back at all. Senior prom, graduation, senior skip day, there were many milestones that were canceled when school closed. But the ceremony of graduation seems to hit the hardest. It’s not quite the same throwing your hat into the air in your living room.
Now that Gov. Greg Abbott has begun the slow process of reopening Texas, local school districts are deciding how to celebrate the graduating class of 2020. Everyone has a different answer.
On Thursday Allen ISD announced that they are forging ahead with an in-person graduation on May 22 at Eagle Stadium. Each student is allowed to bring five family members. The ceremonies will be held simultaneously across four stages and each family will be required to maintain a distance of 25 feet.
They are working on a scheduled time slots, staggering the arrival of students and their family members. They are also taking photographs and short video so that the ceremony is preserved for everyone to see. The 15-minute ceremonies will end when all of the approximately 1,650 students have crossed one of the four stages.
In a press release, Allen High School Principal Jason Johnston said, “Perhaps one of the most impacted cohort of students are our graduating seniors. These students and their families have unfortunately been forced to miss many of the traditional milestone moments that play a key role in bringing an appropriate closure to a 13-year journey.”
Celina, like everyone else, is adjusting in the face of COVID-19. In a May 1 statement to Celina parents, staff, and students, Celina High School president Dave Wilson said, “We are navigating an uncharted path, and in just a few weeks, we will all reach our final destination. Celina High School Graduation exercises are an honored tradition and hold special memories for all in attendance.”
However, he continues, while plans may be postponed, and classes finished online, they intend to give the class of 2020 some form of a program to honor them.
“At this time, we are awaiting approval from state officials as to what they will allow in light of the current situation,” he continued. “Once these guidelines are approved, our plans will be finalized and information will be provided to our graduates, their families and our community.”
For all high schools in Denton, it’s been announced that the Texas Motor Speedway will be hosting class of 2020 graduation ceremonies (with restrictions). Participating school districts include Aubrey ISD, Argyle ISD, Denton ISD, Krum ISD, Lake Dallas ISD, Lewisville ISD, Little Elm ISD, Northwest ISD, Pilot Point ISD, Ponder ISD, Sanger ISD, and Westlake Academy.
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It’ll be like a drive-in movie. Families and guests will stay in their cars, watching the ceremonies and hands-free diploma presentations on Texas Motor Speedway’s huge screen.
Frisco ISD has not yet finalized their plans for graduation. Since their graduation was scheduled for May 28-30, there is conceivable still time to hold it in person, depending on how the reopening of Texas progresses. They did, however, send a survey to their graduation seniors asking for input on the situation.
“Our preference is to give the Class of 2020 as close to a traditional commencement experience as possible,” a Frisco ISD spokesperson says. “Regardless, there will be some form of graduation ceremony or celebration at the end of May.”
In the meantime, Frisco ISD also printed approximately 4,400 yard signs for seniors and their families to display congratulating them, and are encouraging them to go on social media to share in the celebration. It’s a matter of “making the best of the worst possible situation for seniors.”
The McKinney school district has made a plan for a drive-through graduation, where students and their families would be kept in the safety of their cars. But on April 27, McKinney ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel announced that due to Gov. Abbott’s relaxed restrictions, they are now considering a more traditional graduation for 2020 graduates.
They, too, are waiting for the approval at the local level to determine their next steps, and much will depend on whether large gatherings are allowed this summer.
As far as Plano ISD goes, the original graduation date was June. They have announced that in-person graduation is no longer possible. They are working on alternative plans so that the class of 2020 still gets their due.
“Graduation is the culmination of all of our student’s years of hard work, and Plano ISD wants to honor their accomplishments in a graduation ceremony if at all possible,” school officials pointed out on district’s website.
They are also considering a celebration in a virtual setting, and have are considering a few options. They have reserved their graduation venues for later dates in case they decide to host a traditional graduation in the future. Senior high school graduation ceremonies would be postponed until August 1, 2020. The postponed date for the Academy High School ceremony is July 21, 2020.
Media relations for Prosper ISD confirmed that they are definitely going to have a “Grand Celebration” for their Class of 2020. They built a brand new stadium in late 2019, celebrating Prosper’s growth, so it makes sense that they want to hold some form on celebration.
They are waiting to hear from the county commissioner’s task force leader on what their regulations might be before they finalize their plans.
For updates and more information, contact your school district.