Gilbert Public Schools considering adding in-person June graduation

Gilbert Public Schools
Gilbert Public Schools will have a virtual graduation this year but could also have a later in-person graduation. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert Public Schools will have a virtual graduation this year but could also have a later in-person graduation. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert Public Schools will have a high-tech virtual graduation with graduates receiving their diploma on a sound stage from a hologram, but that might not be the end of it.

Superintendent Shane McCord said the district is open to having an optional in-person ceremony for graduates in June if coronavirus-related guidelines on group gatherings are relaxed.

“I want to believe in this situation, anything is possible,” McCord told the GPS governing board in its May 5 meeting. “Of course, I would still rely on the guidance that would come from the governor’s office and if he’s going to allow larger groups to assemble with we’re still adhering to social distancing guidelines. This is something that would be a stretch for us. As you can see, putting the virtual piece together is a task.”

McCord said the district will not abandon the virtual graduation in favor of an in-person graduation because of the changing nature of the guidelines.

“I don’t want to keep disappointing students,” he said.


The district has contracted with Vx3, an audio, visual, lighting and staging company in Phoenix, to do the graduation.

The various speeches will be filmed, and music will be pulled from previous performances that were taped during the school year, according to district officials.

For the issuing of diplomas, Vx3 has worked out a system that will allow students to be taped on an empty sound stage at Mesquite Junior High School receiving their diploma from a hologram of their principal, who is being filmed in front of a green screen in a different room, Secondary Education Executive Director Marcie Taylor said.

For the taping, students will form a car line at the school and will be processed three at a time while maintaining physical distance. One student will be outside the school waiting to go in while the second is at a sanitation station where they can also check their cap for their walk on stage. The station is about 30 feet from the next student who is set to be filmed on stage going to the hologram.

Taylor said the process takes about two to five minutes from leaving the car to getting back into it. Filming will be done over several days. The set can look differentmaccording to which school is being taped.

“There is nothing better than a traditional face-to-face graduation, and nothing can truly replace that experience,” McCord said. “I think this [virtual graduation] is something that all parents and students will enjoy once the finished product is produced.”

Budget revision

District officials presented a second revision of the fiscal year 2019-20 budget to the governing board at its May 5 meeting.

The revision primarily came about as the district figured its final “Average Daily Membership”—the total enrollment of fractional and full-time students, minus withdrawals, of each school day through the first 100 days in session.

That number was 527.86 higher than the district anticipated going into the school year and resulted in a larger weighted student count and more money through the state’s funding formulas.

A larger-than-anticipated budget balance carried forward from the previous fiscal year also contributed.

In the end, the district’s maintenance and operations budget limit grew to $239.29 million, up $4.58 million from the first adopted budget. The unrestricted capital budget limit increased to $12.19 million, up $1.21 million.

Chromebooks refresh

The governing board approved on 5-0 vote for GPS Technology Services and the Purchasing Department to purchase 7,000 Chromebooks for $2.32 million from CDW Government. The purchase is part of the district’s technology refresh as it provides Chromebooks for students’ use. The funding will come from previously approved bonds.
By Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


MOST RECENT

Higley USD governing board
Higley USD proposes 5% employee salary increase to board

Higley USD staff is giving an early recommendation to the governing board that the district increase employee salaries 5% in fiscal year 2021-22, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Brigette Peterson
Gilbert Town Council amends codes to address marijuana at residences

Gilbert Town Council passed new building and fire code amendments Jan. 19 related to safety issues associated with residential marijuana growth and extraction facilities.

On Jan. 13, the Chandler USD governing board voted 3-2, with Lara Bruner and Lindsay Love dissenting, to resume in-person instruction for all grade levels Jan. 19 after a imposing virtual learning for two weeks. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Chandler Education Association: Some teachers, parents feel 'ignored' after board decides to resume in-person learning

The Chandler Education Association released a statement imploring the district to return to virtual learning.

Town of Gilbert mural
Gilbert looks to fill openings on two more boards

The town of Gilbert has announced it is looking for applicants to fill openings on two town boards and commissions.

Kung Pow Restaurant
Panda Libre in Gilbert changes name to Kung Pow Restaurant

The restaurant now serves Chinese food, and the majority of its menu has been revamped.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is expanding who can get COVID-19 vaccinations in Arizona. (Courtesy Baylor College of Medicine)
More COVID-19 vaccination appointments available Jan. 19; plus, see where you can get your COVID-19 vaccination in Maricopa County

The Arizona Department of Health Services is expanding who can get COVID-19 vaccinations in Arizona.

Here is what you need to know today about coronavirus in Gilbert. (Community Impact Newspaper)
COVID-19: Gilbert cases increase by 484 over two days

Here are the COVID-19 data updates to know today.

Here are the coronavirus hospitalization data updates to know across Arizona. (Community Impact staff)
Number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 surpasses 4,700

Take a look at the hospitalization data across Arizona.

The location's decor will pay homage to the town's history as the "Hay Shipping Capital of the World." (Courtesy Cracker Barrel Old Country Store)
Cracker Barrel coming to Gilbert; wine bar set for Chandler and more top Phoenix-area news

Read the most popular news from the past week in Chandler and Gilbert.

Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services announced Jan. 14 the launch of a second vaccination site after the success of the state's first 24/7 vaccination site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. The second location will be at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. (Alexa D'Angelo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Arizona to add second vaccination center after successes at State Farm Stadium in Glendale

Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services announced Jan. 14 the launch of a second vaccination site after the success of the state's first 24/7 vaccination site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. The second location will be at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 updates from Chandler USD. (Alexa D'Angelo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Chandler USD to return to in-person learning Jan. 19

The Chandler USD governing board voted for students to return to campuses Jan. 19.

Gilbert Town Council inauguration
Brigette Peterson sworn in as Gilbert mayor with council members Scott Anderson, Kathy Tilque

Brigette Peterson was sworn in as the 33rd mayor of Gilbert on Jan. 12, ending a nearly yearlong shuffling of the Town Council