Denison Independent School District has released details on its plans to hold a conventional graduation in a time of social distancing.
The district announced that it will hold commencement for Pathways High School and Denison High School on June 12 and June 13, respectively.
The decision came as the district debated over the desire to hold a traditional graduation and the need to remain safe during the ongoing public health crisis.
“We want to provide our seniors with that opportunity to physically walk across the stage and have a graduation ceremony that is as close as it can be to what they’d normally experience,” DISD Assistant Superintendent David Kirkbride said. “Our goal was to do as much as was possible and allowable and to provide that opportunity for our seniors.”
In late April, the district said it would be polling seniors and their parents about graduation alternatives, including holding a virtual ceremony online, or delaying the event until July.
“Basically the choice was to have a virtual graduation sooner or have a face-to-face graduation on July 18,” Kirkbride said.
“Because we had no guidance at the time, we felt to schedule in July ... was to allow the virus to pass or subside to some extent,” he continued.
However, Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency announced guidelines for physical graduations that could be held as early as June 1.
“There are some very specific guidelines out there, so we are obligated to communicate that very well,’ Kirkbride said. ”There will also be a focus on distancing with an emphasis on that.”
Despite the move to hold a traditional ceremony, Kirkbride said there will be new procedures put in place to ensure that people are kept apart.
Families will be spread across both sides of the bleachers at Munson stadium with at least six feet of distance between groups during the DHS graduation. Officials said only one section should be needed for the Pathways graduation.
Due to the seating arrangement, there will only be a capacity of 600 for friends and family, and each student will be given four tickets.
Kirkbride said there has been some push back from families at this restriction. However, he said this is what district leaders need to put in place to both keep people safe and hold a physical graduation.
Kirkbride noted that this rule affects him as a parent as well.
“I have a senior this year in the graduating class and a large family, so not everyone is going to get to attend,” he said. “That’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is going to be.”
With regard to diplomas, Kirkbride said the covers will be handed out by DHS Principal Cavin Boettger, who is will be wearing a face mask and gloves. The physical diplomas will be mailed the following week.
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at email@example.com.