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

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.