Amid calls for social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sherman Independent School District announced its plans to delay the 2020 high school commencement Friday.


The district announced in a letter to graduates and their families that it has set two possible dates in June and July for the annual ceremony, which was initially scheduled to take place on May 23.


The circumstances in which we find ourselves have been some of the most challenging we have faced. While COVID-19 has resulted in the closure of schools throughout the state and around the country, no group of students has been more impacted by this crisis than you, our high school seniors,“ Sherman High School Principal Jenifer Politi said in the letter.


“I understand that you may be feeling a sense of loss and uncertainty about your senior year, a time which should be one of the most exciting in your life. However, I know that you are a class that possesses the inner strength and courage to face adversity, make changes, and move onward.”


The decision to delay the graduation came after many students expressed a desire to still have a traditional graduation. The district considered a variety of options, including a drive-thru parade-style commencement that would allow students to receive their diploma while in their cars.


In the same letter, district officials announced that many of the end of year ceremonies for students, including prom, the senior awards ceremony, senior walk and panoramic photo, among others, have been canceled.


“I understand that for so many, senior events are the culmination of a lifetime of talent, hard work and preparation,” Politi said in the letter. “ ... This announcement comes with a great deal of sadness and disappointment, but it is right for your safety.”


Under the new schedule, graduation will be held on June 12 and 13 at Bearcat Stadium across four graduation ceremonies. The first 100 graduates will receive their diplomas at 9 a.m. on the June 12, followed by a second ceremony at 8 p.m. The final two ceremonies will be held at the same times the following day on June 13.


If conditions do not allow for the June ceremony, a second ceremony is tentatively scheduled for July 17 and 18. If this date also does not work out, Politi said district officials will instead hold a virtual graduation on July 18 that will be broadcast online.


The district decided to split the ceremony into four events as a way to limit the crowd that would gather. Each student will be given six tickets for family members to attend, and the seating at Bearcat Stadium will be split up to allow six feet between people for social distancing.


Meanwhile, Denison Independent School District announced this week that it will poll seniors in coming weeks to determine the best plans for graduation. District officials said that a formalized plan is expected to be released by mid-May.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.