GRAPELAND, Texas (KTRE) - Hundreds of high school seniors across East Texas are wondering what graduation will look like in the age of COVID-19.
Earlier this month, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order keeping all public, private, and higher education campuses closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.
Abbott’s order, along with social distancing guidelines, means seniors will miss out on one of the biggest moments of their lives - the traditional walk across the stage during commencement.
So how do you hold a graduation ceremony when you can’t gather in large groups?
Grapeland ISD is answering that question for its Class of 2020. Grapeland High School administrators and senior class officers have come up with a unique way to mark the milestone.
The district is giving each graduating senior an opportunity to customize an individual graduation ceremony.
“We didn’t want to choose between family members, because obviously it was harder on those who have separated parents and everything. So, we decided to do individuals," said senior class officer Maddie McCombs.
Senior class officer Cooper Ward was also part of the collaborative effort to salvage graduation.
“I wanted it to be community-based. Like what actually helped everyone get through high school and be themselves and express individuality and originality," Ward said.
The individual ceremonies will happen the last week of May, according to the post.
Each senior will be allowed to pick one of six locations for their ceremony. Their choices are the front of the high school, the basketball gym, front of the Ag building, the football field, or the softball field.
“The reason for this is, it gives the senior a sentimental value as to where they left off. So like COVID-19 kind of stole something from us, so we’re kind of stealing something back,” McCombs said.
Each senior’s picture will be taken and made part of a video that will be posted on the Grapeland ISD Facebook Page at 7 p.m., Friday, May 29.
Instead of one graduation day, Grapeland High School seniors are planning a graduation week. Each day will have a set venue, and each senior will have a time slot for their families to celebrate.
“So we can still practice those social distancing policies. We’ll check temperatures, have masks, have gloves. Each location that the seniors picked is in an open area where we could spread out," said Grapeland High School Principal Katie Doughty.
School officials are expected to send out more information on social distancing guidelines for the ceremonies as well as scheduling information.
It may not be a traditional graduation, but it is sentimental.
“I think this is just an interesting way for them to close out this chapter. But again, for a lot of them, this is not the end," Doughty said. “This is just the beginning for them."