The tradition of high school graduation night is all about honoring the seniors in a public forum in front of their family and friends, and no one wants to take that away from them.
But because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic concerns, Glen Rose ISD officials are still considering the options for this year’s big event — which, like so many other things, has been thrown for a loop.
As of press time Thursday, having an in-person gathering for the Class of 2020 ceremony remained in doubt — even if Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s public safety guidelines are loosened in the next few days.
GRISD Superintendent Wayne Rotan and GRHS Principal Kelly Shackelford said that the graduation may have to be a "virtual" one — using an online format.
The COVID-19 precautions had already forced Texas schools to switch to online instruction for its students after Abbott’s disaster declaration shut them down in March. Abbott later announced that students would not return to campus for the remainder of the current school year, and all UIL extracurricular activities have been canceled.
The last day GRISD students were in school was March 6.
"Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that might be the last time we saw the kids until next school year," Rotan said.
The graduation date is still set for May 22, although that could change.
"But we may have to do virtual ceremonies," Shackelford said. "We didn’t want to change that. If forced, we would."
Other traditional end-of-school events for Glen Rose, such as the school-sponsored prom, senior trip and the Project Graduation spaghetti supper also have been canceled for this year and won’t be rescheduled.
"All of the schools have wiped out their proms. We would love to do fundraising for the senior graduation," Shackelford said, noting that last year’s spaghetti supper raised $40,000 for Project Graduation.
"It’s a difficult situation," Rotan told the Glen Rose Reporter. "I feel for the seniors. We’d love to have our students back (in school), but under the current status we will continue to have remote instruction through the remaining schedule of the academic year, which is May 21st."
Rotan said that the students and the teaching staff are doing an outstanding job dealing with the online instruction, via Zoom video and also communicating via email whenever necessary.
"I think it’s going extremely well. It’s certainly not the preferred option, but that’s the only option at this time," Rotan said. "I think summer school is going to be online as well. I hope, by August, all this is behind us and we are ready to go (back in the classrooms)."
As for knowing whether the graduation ceremony will be "virtual" or possibly some form of "in-person" event with appropriate social distancing, Rotan said, "We don’t at this time. The commissioner of education is supposed to give us some guidance."
Shackelford said that the restrictions may make any in-person ceremony impossible.
"But until we get those guidelines we don’t want to make that call," the principal said, noting that Abbott is expected to speak on April 27 to update the situation.
"I think more restrictions will be lifted," Shackelford said. "We know there are going to be guidelines. We just don’t know what those are (yet). It’s so hard to guess. We really like our (traditional) ceremonies, and the kids … and the parents seem to like it. We want to make it a normal ceremony."
Rotan said, "The graduation ceremony is about the seniors — modified or virtual or rescheduled much later. We’re definitely going to talk to our seniors and get their input (through online polls). They’re the ones that have worked for this. It’s all about them, and we want them to have a voice in this."
Although an online ceremony could eventually be left as the only option, Shackelford said, "At this point we don’t even want to consider how that would look. We’ve got to be very flexible."