SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Seminole County parents were notified this week that their high school seniors’ graduations would be in the auditorium like the year before and students would be required to reserve graduation time slots.
Parents were also told the prom would be socially-distanced and would not include dancing.
One letter from Lake Howell High School read: “The Class of 2021 Graduation Ceremony will not be at Addition Financial Arena (UCF). Instead, graduation will be held in the Auditorium at Lake Howell High School on May 27, 2021. While this is not the ending our seniors anticipated, it will provide seniors the opportunity to graduate in front of friends and family while meeting safety guidelines. Each student will be able to bring more guests to see them receive their diploma and graduate. Students will be able to sign up for a graduation time slot with their friends.”
Seminole County Schools spokesman Michael Lawrence said UCF had not signed off on contracts for graduation so the school district made a decision to choose a date and venue so parents could plan.
“Basically we’re going to do the same approach we did last year where we have a range of last names where maybe A-C would go at one time, rotate those families through, that allows family members to be in there at once,” Lawrence said. “Unfortunately we’re having to do things a little unconventional and non-traditional from what we’d like to do, but we still want to try and honor students as best we can, to give them some sort of senior going-out as best we can and they definitely deserve that, the best that we can to make that happen.”
Danielle Moorefield, mom of graduating senior Camryn, said that’s a cop-out.
“I think they’re taking advantage of the situation, they’re trying to do something easy like they did last year, this is what they did last year, it’s easy boom, done, no planning, involves no responsibility,” Danielle Moorefield said. “We’re not all locked in our houses like we were last year, why should we have to do what the kids did last year for graduation, that is not right! Let these kids come with an alternative to what they did last year. We’re going to stores, we’re going to schools, we’re going to work, we’re going to restaurants, why can’t they graduate. You’re punishing them for doing their jobs, they’ve done this for 12 years, they deserve a graduation.”
Senior Camryn Moorefield said her wish is to graduate with all of her friends.
“I want to graduate with people I’ve seen for 12 years,” Camryn Moorefield said. “I want to graduate with people in my class who’ve seen my success and my failures and all of that. I don’t want just my family to watch me graduate, I want everyone to watch me graduate and I want to watch my friends graduate.”
Parent Michelle Spelman created a Facebook page “Seminole County 2021 Graduating Class” that had 480 members by Tuesday afternoon.
She also created a Change.org petition calling for other graduation options that had received 1,164 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.
“The whole point is that there’s plenty of other options,” Spelman said. “They’re just settling for what they did last year and it’s (an) easy way out.”
Lawrence said the auditorium decision was made by a grouping of high school principals and their administrative staff at the district level.
“When you’re in an auditorium, you’re in a controlled environment, you’re in air conditioning, and you have the ability no matter what the weather is outside the event can still happen,” Lawrence said. “We also say back to the parents they need understand the situation that we’re in and we’ve been in this, this whole school year.”
Seminole County Medical Director Dr. Todd Husty said allowing students to graduate at once would become a “super-spreader” event.
“We know there has been spread due to sports, and come on, if you just sort of extrapolate that and stretch it out as to what that would be at a prom, what would that mean if everybody gets in the same auditorium, we know what would happen, it’s proven itself over and over again,” Husty said. “Those events would cause a big spread of the disease.”
Husty said the school district must also consider the potential spread of COVID-19 to family members.
“The other side of it is that the kids who would get it also have parents and grandparents, and I mean that’s the problem, they may not be as affected as much themselves but they affect the community in a big way,” Husty said. “This is not going overboard, I’ve been asked questions similar to this before and my answer is doesn’t anyone realize we have a pandemic going on. The rules have to change and they have changed. Look at what’s happened to us. We have to take precautions. I’m sorry. But that’s just the name of the game. We have to take precautions. So it’s very wise to do this. I get that, it’s horrible, but we didn’t have a big spreader event [last year]. We did the right thing. Right now we’re being asked to do the right thing as at the community.”