Bay City ISD weighs graduation options during pandemic

Bay City ISD weighs graduation options during pandemic

Bay City ISD’s Board of Trustees favored a pair of options out those presented for a Bay City High School graduation ceremony.

Three options were presented to the board during a workshop meeting last Thursday.

Graduation will be June 12 with a limit of four guests per graduate, but a plan for exactly it will be done will be communicated with graduates, their families and the community at-large by the end of the week.

As have many things because of COVID-19, high school graduations have had to be adjusted in order to honor seniors but also remember their health and safety as well. The Texas Education Agency presented guidelines to districts to have outdoor graduation.

“There’s not going to be a right answer here. The whole traditional graduation has been disrupted by this virus, but we have to find the best answer or the better solution here,” Bay City ISD Superintendent Marshall Scott III said.

 Board members supported two options. Plan A, which would be for a face-to-face graduation ceremony with the full class at the football stadium, or Plan B, where graduates would have staggered times where they would receive diplomas with their families and then leave the stadium.

“I think either Option A or B, may not be the completely safest way to have it but it would be the most memorable way to have it for these graduates. You have to remember they’ve been working for 12 years for this moment,” board president Bob Klepac said.

Plan C, which would be for a drive-up ceremony in front of the high school on June 12, was not favored by the board.

Bay City High School principal Estela Reyes said that a survey taken online by Bay City ISD favored a face-to-to face graduation in the stadium. 

“They wanted it as normal as possible, but they also wanted ensure their safety and their health,” Reyes said.

The survey was considered when the three options were developed, Reyes said.

Plan A would have graduates show up at staggered times with families, but the ceremony with all the graduates seated on the field would not occur until 9 p.m.

Only those guests with tickets would be allowed in the ceremony. Assigned seating would be on each ticket.

If the last name of the graduate begins with A-K and Top 10, you will park and sit on the home side (press box side). If the graduate’s name begins with L-Z, you will park and sit on the visitor’s side. You will exit the ceremony from the same entrance. Families should stay in the car until they are allowed to enter at their arrival time and as guided by parking staff. Families should arrive in one vehicle if possible and all members of each family must arrive before approaching the entrance together. The entrance will be marked with 6-feet distancing between families.

Participating students and patrons must be screened via questioning so each graduate will receive related screening surveys in advance which is their ticket to enter. Screening surveys must be presented upon entry. The screening survey will be on the back of the ticket.

Arrival times for each graduate are designated by the first initial in their last name or if they are in the Top 10. Arrival times would be as follows: 7 p.m. (home side) Top 10 and A-C; 7:30 p.m. (home side) D-K; 8 p.m. (visitor’s side) L-Q; 8:30 p.m. (visitor’s side) P-Z.

Graduates will arrive at the stadium with their families and the graduate will go straight to their designated seat on the field with practicing social distancing. Families will be escorted to their designated seats in the stands by practicing social distancing. Monitors will be on the field to help assist graduates to their seats and make sure they stay in their seat.

Warning tape will indicate row that are off limits. Families will sit in groups of four in their assigned seats, but social distancing should be applied elsewhere.

School officials will be limited to the minimum number required to logistically support the ceremony. Employees will be asked to volunteer; it will not be required for them to attend.

Patrons will not be allowed on the track or field. Graduates will be met by school personnel and directed to their seat on the field.

Bay City High School has secured a professional photographer and the ceremony will be live streamed via YouTube on the BCISD website. The photograph will be taken as the graduate stand in front of the podium with the superintendent and principal.

Hand sanitizer stations will be available at the entrance and in common areas. Restroom facilities will be available for public use. We will have a maintenance department employee that can disinfect at the area after each use. Only one person will be allowed to enter the restroom facility at a time.

“Our goal is to have it as normal as we can but yet listening to all the guidelines we have in place,” Reyes said.

Plan B would start at 6 p.m. June 12 includes an on-field processional with reading of graduate names and the graduate walking with a maximum of four guests separated from other families to follow social distancing guidelines.

There will be pre-recorded principal’s certification, speeches and recognition available online.

Each graduate, in alphabetical order by last name will have a designated arrival time and will be expected to arrive with all four guests with a designated arrival time and will be expected to arrive with all four guests before proceeding to the gate.

They will enter the stadium and walk the field to “Pomp and Circumstance” pick up a diploma roll with their families on the field with them, pause at a staging area for a photo and promptly exit to their vehicles.

It will be done in small groups to maintain distancing between families.

There will not be an audience in the stands and students will not be seated on the field.

The graduate would arrive with family members (up to four guests). All family members of family and the graduate would be required to wear a face covering (over the nose and mouth).

“What if someone shows up and they don’t want to wear a mask?,” Scott said. “You can see that out in the community.”

Scott said these are recommendations from the Texas Education Agency, they have no governmental authority. These are governmental decisions that are made locally by a board. 

 “I appreciate the TEA giving us these kind of baseline recommendations, but the enforceability around all this still lies with the board and the administration,” Scott said. “For me, I have some concerns about gathering lots of people. And it’s for safety. I get this is an opportunity for parents to share a special moment with their graduate. By all means we want to celebrate them. How do mitigate or control the risk factors that may come about by creating this situation?”

Scott said it’s difficult to manage 840 people in a normal setting.

The graduates would be staggered in receiving their diplomas as in Option A, only no one will be in the stands and graduates will be escorted in and out of the stadium. Graduates would receive their diplomas by the first letter of their last name. The Top 10 graduates would be among the first to receive diplomas. Times are as follows: Top 10 and A-C – 6 p.m.; D-K – 7 p.m.; L-Q – 8 p.m.; P-Z – 9 p.m.

Graduates and families must stay together at all times and will not be permitted to congregate with other families at any time.

If a graduate does not have a cap and gown, please contact Reyes at ereyes@baycityisd.org.

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