Volusia County parent starts petition for outdoor graduation ceremony

Petition calls for change of venue, earlier ceremony date

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Many seniors in Volusia County celebrated their graduation from high school by having car parades while they wait for the day to formally walk across a stage. That’s what Michael Walter’s daughter did who was a senior at University High School.

"There are so many people that are going to miss out on this important moment. Unfortunately, these kids have missed out on so much already this year," said Michael Walters.

Walters said he was against having this year's graduation ceremony at the Ocean Center and created a petition to change the venue. He said the ceremony would be better outside which he said would allow more guests to attend due to social distancing. Walters also wants an earlier graduation date than July, so more seniors can celebrate.

"You can just tell people be mature, be responsible, spread out, but let the kids have the people who are special in their lives be present," he said.

The petition has already garnered more than 900 signatures. He needs 1,000 before it reaches the Volusia County School Board.

"Obviously, a lot of other people feel very strongly about this as well," said Walters.

Walters' daughter Nancy said she also wants her graduation ceremony to be moved and is happy that her parents are taking action.

"I appreciate that my parents care enough to want me to have that milestone in my life," said Nancy Walters.

The Volusia County School District told News 6, under the May 12 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, only two to three guests per student are allowed inside the Ocean Center for larger high schools that have about 700 seniors. Normally, six to seven guests would be allowed.

Walters said he appreciates how hard the school district is working, especially during a pandemic, but hopes his petition doesn't fall on deaf ears.

"I know it's hard," he said. "It can't be easy to make those decisions, but I feel like this one is one of those decisions we need to revisit."

News 6 is still waiting to hear the school board’s reaction to the petition and whether its looking at changing graduation guidelines, now that Central Florida is in phase two of the governor’s reopening plan.

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