UPDATED: Alvin, Pearland, Friendswood ISDs to honor seniors despite school closures

Delayed or virtual graduation ceremonies have become the alternative to initial district commencement plans. (Courtesy Pexels)
Delayed or virtual graduation ceremonies have become the alternative to initial district commencement plans. (Courtesy Pexels)

Delayed or virtual graduation ceremonies have become the alternative to initial district commencement plans. (Courtesy Pexels)

Editor's note: The article was updated at 7:32 p.m., May 14, to reflect that Alvin ISD will be holding graduations June 4-6. No virtual graduation will be offered.

Editor's note: The article was updated at 6:25 p.m., May 15, to reflect that Friendswood ISD will be holding gradation on June 5.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in America, difficult decisions have been made in school districts nationwide. After Gov. Greg Abbott’s April 17 executive order officially canceling in-person school in Texas for the rest of the academic year, one challenge in particular has been how to handle canceled commencement ceremonies for seniors in the class of 2020.

One choice has been to arrange both a virtual and in-person graduation ceremony. Friendswood ISD has decided to move in this direction while Alvin and Pearland ISDs are focusing on in-person commencements.

AISD initially planned to have a virtual ceremony in May and hold outdoor ceremonies in July, but according to the district website, with the governor's announcement approving outdoor ceremonies after June 1, AISD has decided to move its graduation ceremonies to June and cancel the planned virtual event. PISD is set to have in-person graduations at Pearland ISD Stadium on June 2-4 and has no plans to host a virtual ceremony.

Dawn Craig is the parent of a student graduating from PISD this spring. She said she is thankful districts are providing an alternative in-person experience for seniors who had been looking forward to the event since freshman year.

“These kids have worked so hard to earn this recognition,” Craig said. “Graduation is a way for them to close out this chapter in their life and open another.”

AISD said in a press release the decision to strive for in-person ceremonies was based on a survey it sent out to the parents of seniors to hear their input. The survey received over 2,000 responses.

“What we heard from our families is that they want that in-person graduation experience, even if that was later this year, so we are going to do our best to make that happen,” Superintendent Carol Nelson said in the press release.

The in-person ceremonies will be at Freedom Field on June for Shadow Creek High School, June 5 for RISE Academy and Manvel High School, and June 6 for Alvin High School. Each student will be able to have six guests and social distancing will be enforced. The event will also be live streamed for those unable to attend.

PISD was originally scheduled to have its graduation ceremonies at NRG Stadium in Houston. Hosting the ceremonies at Pearland ISD Stadium means graduates are limited to two guests, according to a message from the district May 8.

“I’m very thankful for the fact that PISD is allowing them to experience walking across the stage in front of their peers and family members,” Craig said. “I wish they would have considered a bigger venue to allow more guests and still abide by social distancing. It’s hard when you are only allowed two guests and you have a bigger family, but again, some are better than none.”

FISD has also rescheduled its graduation to take place June 5 at Challenger Columbia Stadium.

According to the district website, FISD is in the middle of finalizing details for a celebration of graduating seniors on their original graduation date of May 24. The district plans to honor seniors in several ways throughout the community and with a video tribute.

Craig said she does not think a virtual graduation can replicate the importance of a live ceremony and that all districts should be striving to provide a live graduation for their students.

“We know this has been a difficult end to the school year for our seniors,” Nelson said. “Hopefully[...]this will give our seniors a sense of closure with high school and allow them to look ahead to their future endeavors with hope and positivity.”