When the Houston Independent School District suddenly canceled classes due to coronavirus concerns in March, high school seniors were left without a way to close out and toast their final year. The fear of potentially no graduation has, perhaps not surprisingly, sparked myriad petitions online across Texas, demanding “real” ceremonies.
In effort to satisfy some sort of time-honored tradition, HISD has announced that it will hold graduation ceremonies virtually beginning Sunday, June 14 for the Class of 2020.
The virtual ceremonies will go live online on June 14; each virtual ceremony will include recorded messages from the superintendent and other district officials, as well as audio of each student’s name as their personalized slide is displayed, according to a district press release.
Each graduate will receive their own personalized content as a gift from the school to share on social media with family and friends. Seniors will soon be contacted by their schools with instructions on how the information will be collected.
Graduates’ guests can remotely view the ceremony on multiple platforms. The virtual celebrations will also be shareable on Facebook and other social media.
Meanwhile, a public, in-person celebration is in the works, according to HISD. A citywide celebration on Friday, June 5, hosted by Mayor Sylvester Turner, will take place outdoors at school campuses “following strict safety measures,” per a statement. The ceremony will not be a commencement, and no diplomas will be issued to students during the optional event. More information on the public event is available online.
“The district has been working diligently to celebrate our graduates, while ensuring the health and safety of our HISD community during the current COVID-19 crisis,” said interim superintendent, Grenita Lathan, in a statement. “Deciding that all high school graduations for our 11,000 seniors will take place virtually has been one of the most difficult decisions I have ever confronted as the district leader. However, I am so proud of the accomplishments of the historic Class of 2020 and the strength they have shown through this unique challenge.”