At the May 11 Fort Bend ISD board of trustees meeting, Superintendent Charles Dupre asked the board for feedback on potentially having outdoor graduation ceremonies in June.
Dupre said when considering this option, FBISD staff looked at the benefits of having a graduation ceremony as soon as safely possible and also the health risks potentially associated with gathering at an indoor venue in July.
“[District leadership] looked at our priorities as bringing closure for the class of 2020 as soon as possible and that means being able to honor our graduates before they begin going into the military or away to college or other post-high school opportunities in late June and July,” Dupre said.
This consideration comes nearly a week after the Texas Education Agency issued guidelines stating with the proper distancing and screening requirements, all districts can begin holding in-person outdoor graduation ceremonies beginning June 1.
Previously, the district had announced that graduation ceremonies would take place over three days—July 19-21— at the Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land.
Dupre said if the district decides to move ceremonies outdoors, they will most likely be held over five to six days during the first or second week of June.
Additionally, Dupre said district staff considered multiple area outdoor venues but decided at 9,200 seats FBISD Hall Stadium in Missouri City would be the best option and allow proper social distancing of graduates and family. Still, Dupre said for the district’s larger high schools, graduates will probably be limited to four guests each.
Trustee Kristin Tassin, whose daughter, Sarah, graduates from Ridge Point High School this year, said it is important to her to have a guaranteed way to celebrate FBISD seniors.
“I feel like sooner is better than later,” Tassin said. “I think having virtually no audience at Smart Financial to try to socially distance the students is not a good scenario. I think risking a virtual graduation is really not a good scenario. I feel like having something outdoors where we can control it, even if we have to limit tickets and distance the kids and distance the audience just seems like a better plan in my mind as a parent and as a trustee trying to ensure that all these kids get to have a graduation.”
While all members of the board expressed support for moving the graduations to June, trustee Grayle James raised concerns about the safety and logistics of a socially distanced graduation.
“I think it's a tremendous amount of logistics to figure out how to get people in and out of the stadium, students in and out, set up the rules, etc.,” James said. “I want closure also. But I also want safety for staff and for students. I don't want to cause harm.”
District staff said they are looking into their contract with the Smart Financial Centre to determine if there will be any cancellation fees or if payment can be rolled over to future events.
Amanda Bubela, FBISD’s director of external communications and media relations, said she expects the district to make a formal decision regarding graduation within a week or so.