Harris County schools prepare for graduation ceremonies with social distancing

After state officials approved outdoor graduations this week, some local school districts are now changing their commencement plans.

On Wednesday, Cy-Fair ISD officials sent out a notice to the Class of 2020 and their families that said all ceremonies for 12 campuses will now be held outdoors at the Cy-Fair FCU Stadium at the Berry Center starting June 1st.

"With everything canceled, I think that now that graduation and prom are getting rescheduled, it’s making everyone really hopeful because we were so upset at some points. Anything we’re getting back is really awesome," said Georgia Redwine, a senior at Cy-Woods High School. 

Redwine said she can’t help but feel like a huge chunk of her high school experience was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Usually football season is fun but all the fun senior things happen spring semester," said Redwine. 

However, even though in-person commencement is resuming outdoors, it won’t be without noticeable changes. Social distancing and symptom screenings for COVID-19 will still be required at the entrance, and the number of guests for each graduate will be limited.

"Usually each graduate gets 10 tickets per person to give to family. And they are limiting that to 4 per person. Like for me, I have a family of 5. I'm the fifth so my grandparents cant come. Nobody else but my parents and sisters," Redwine said. 

Cy-Fair ISD is one of the largest school districts in the Houston-area. According to Redwine, there are roughly 875 seniors in her graduating class. If each of them are allowed four guests, that’s a total of about 3500 people not including the district staff, faculty and additional guests that will have to be present.

So far, Cy-Fair ISD has not clarified whether face masks will be enforced.

"In our district, we’re not allowed to decorate the top of our graduation caps at all. But if we all wanted to wear college-themed masks, that would be kinda fun to see everyone’s colleges in a way I guess – just to make the best out of the mask situation," Redwine said. 

Other school districts like Fort Bend and Humble ISD have tentatively rescheduled their graduations to indoor-venues in July. District officials said they’re still working on finalizing plans. 

Mayor Sylvester Turner also announced Wednesday that the City of Houston, in partnership with Houston ISD and five other districts, will hold a city-wide virtual and in-person commencement for high school seniors on June 5th. 

According to Mayor Turner, high school seniors will gather at their respective campuses, practicing social distancing, dressed in graduation caps, and gowns, as well as face coverings, for a hybrid (virtual/in-person) celebration.

Digital platforms will be provided to allow families to watch. HISD says more details will be provided at a later date.