Class of 2020 Celebrates Graduation with Modified Ceremony

By Hannah Ashtari, Reporter

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  • Parents watch their child graduating over a projector screen. To maintain safety guidelines, a student was only able to bring his/her close family to the ceremony.

    Photo By Hannah Ashatari

  • A senior walks toward the principal to get his high school diploma. The ceremony lasted the whole day instead of just a few hours so there were no dense crowds.

    Photo By Hannah Ashatari

  • Teachers, wearing masks, and maintaining a social distance, watch the tents set up for students. Students were able to pick up gift bags during the makeshift ceremony.

    Photo By Hannah Ashatari

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Despite the global pandemic that disrupted all aspects of life including the school year, seniors and their families were able to celebrate graduation with a modified ceremony at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex on Friday, May 22. 

“While nothing can replace the Project [Graduation] night we would have had, I do appreciate the effort that the PTA and Staff have been putting into trying to salvage our senior year,” Denton Harmon ‘20 said. 

The district worked to provide graduates with the celebration they deserved while complying with Texas Education Agency (TEA) guidelines and guidance from health officials to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Superintendent Dr. Steve Flores addressed students in a video to describe important details about the Senior Commencement Walk.

“Your commencement walk and celebration will be unlike any other ceremony we’re ever had before,” Dr. Flores said. 

To maintain the safety of the event and ensure that social distancing guidelines were followed, graduates and their guests were asked a series of questions related to coronavirus symptoms and exposure before entering the stadium. Attendees were also encouraged to wear masks and remain six feet apart. 

“I felt that the administrators did a really good job at making sure people were socially distancing themselves and checking the symptoms,” Junna Castel ‘20 said. “On the other hand, it frustrated me to see people interacting without masks, but I think the administration did its best in controlling the factors they could.” 

Once inside, families were able to follow a path across the football field to the stage. Seniors then walked across the remainder of the field and stage by themselves to receive their diploma, while their name was announced and families watched from a distance. Graduates also had the opportunity to have photos taken next to decorations and by a professional photographer, as well as see some of their teachers.  

“It was really well organized and ran super smoothly,” Nicole Boisseau ‘20 said. “I understand the meaning and significance of all of the other traditions and speeches but I honestly preferred this to waiting for two hours for everyone’s names to get read.” 

However, the unique situation felt strange to some students, who expressed the sentiment that the ceremony paled in comparison to what could have been, had the pandemic not happened.  

“It feels like the graduation equivalent of a Las Vegas wedding with an Elvis impersonator. I’m curious about the long term impact [the pandemic] is going to have on our behavior. My guess is that celebration will overall be more modest.” Annabelle Hicks ‘20 said. 

In his video explaining the instructions for the Senior Commencement Walk, Dr. Flores had a message for the graduates forced to adapt to challenging times. 

“I know this may not be the experience you dreamed of, but please know we are so incredibly proud of you and your achievements, and we are dedicated to celebrating you,” Dr. Flores said. “You are the proud, persistent, and resilient Class of 2020.” 

To further celebrate graduates, there will be a virtual graduation experience on Friday, June 5 at 7 p.m. Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) is also considering a potential in-person graduation ceremony at the HEB center at Cedar Park on Thursday, Aug. 6, Friday, Aug. 7, and Saturday, Aug. 8, if circumstances and direction from local governments on large gatherings allow them to do so.