Delayed Meridian High School graduation allows for “as normal as possible” commencement exercises in wake of COVID-19 restrictions
MERIDIAN – Navigating unchartered waters due to the shock wave created by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Heart of Texas school officials struggled to come up with a variety in high school graduation ceremonies this year – each geared to giving the graduating seniors closure to the years spent in the classroom, working towards the pinnacle moment completion.
With COVID-19 restrictions in place, there were virtual graduations with family members handing out the diplomas, there were ceremonies with graduates spread out on the school’s football field, wearing their togas, caps and masks, and there was a combination of the two. Some schools made compilation videos as a memory of classmates, complete with commencement speeches.
With the hope of COVID-19 social restrictions lightening up as the spring progressed, Meridian Independent School District Superintendent Kim Edwards and Meridian High School Principal Kristi Kinney planned the Meridian Class of 2020 Commencement exercises much later than all other area schools. It will be held in the Yellowjacket football stadium June 26, and it seems the decision of riding out the restrictions will pay off.
“Graduation used to be at the football stadium” Edwards said. “And I’m kind of excited to reinstate that old tradition.”
With the youth already missing out on so many senior activities like sports, band and academic banquets, Edwards hoped to give the 28 graduating students some “normal” closure to their high school years. With students not actually in school at the time of their graduation, Edwards felt there was no real rush to stage a graduation ceremony straight away.
“They got shorted on so much, we’re not shorting on the graduation,” Edwards said. “By that date, we hope even more restrictions will have lifted.”
There was a “COVID” convoy June 4, organized by the senior’s parents, in which the seniors decorated cars and cruised down Main Street to Meridian Park, to the sign congratulating them on their graduation.
“This was just another way to help celebrate our seniors and fill a void for them,” Edwards said waiting for the convoy to come down Main Street. “They have missed out on so much and this is something fun to celebrate this milestone of theirs.”
There is also still a prom planned in July.
Seniors and their families do have several guidelines to follow regarding the graduation at the football field. Each senior is allowed 10 reserved tickets, with four family members on the track for the Rose Ceremony, and six in the Home Stands. All other guests will be placed in other locations in the stadium.
Under the current circumstances the graduation guest guidelines are:
-- All guests are encouraged to wear cloth face coverings while inside school facilities but these are not required
-- Prior to participating, individuals will be screened (via questioning) by school employees for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID19:
-- Gates open at 6 pm. with the ceremony starting at 7 p.m., after which no one will be allowed to enter the stadium. Hand sanitizer will be provided at both entrances to the stadium
-- All reserved ticket holders are required to enter through the North parking lot. All other guests can enter through either the North or South parking lots at a “first come, first serve” basis.
-- Guests should wait in their vehicles until someone arrives to check them in, following Centrum of Disease Control guidelines. The entire group must be present before they are allowed to enter the stadium. As per Texas Education Agency guidelines a group may not be bigger than 10 people.
-- Once seated, a group must remain in their seat until dismissal after the ceremony and instructed ow to depart the stadium - by sections/rows to ensure everyone’s safety.
-- Upon leaving the stadium area, people may not congregate, but proceed directly to their vehicles and leave the school property.
The administration has worked diligently in attempting to make this the best graduation for “their” Class of 2020. For anyone who feels that attending in person would be a safety risk, the commencement ceremony will be live streamed through the Meridian ISD1 Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/meridian.isd/.
After being available Monday and Tuesday, ticket pick-up concludes today at the Meridian High School front office from 1- 3 p.m.
Follow the Meridian High School Class of 2020 Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Meridian-High-School-Class-of-2020-104942754512382/ for updates.
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
©2020 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.