Fort Hood’s five surrounding school districts have announced their plans for the 2020 high school commencement ceremonies. While all the districts will be adhering to state-mandated social distancing protocols, they will all be doing something different and unique for the graduating seniors.
“Graduation was always looked at like, ‘How can we still honor all of our students?’” Taina Maya, communications director of Killeen Independent School District, said. “We have been looking at how to best do this – whether it was to delay graduation or to do something virtually.”
Detailing the district’s plan for its high schools, Maya said they would be producing a virtual graduation, which will air, May 29-31, depending on the high school. For the full list of times and dates, visit KISD online at https://www.facebook.com/pg/killeen.isd/events. For those wanting to participate in a traditional ceremony, the district has reserved the Bell County Expo Center for July 20-21. Maya said the traditional graduation ceremony is contingent on Governor Gregory Abbott’s directives.
The virtual ceremony will include a photo of the graduate in his or her cap and gown, with the graduate’s name and a personal message read aloud. As a way to honor each KISD graduate, Dr. John Craft, KISD superintendent, and the KISD board approved for the 2020 senior class to receive a keepsake cap and gown.
“I think we have, not a perfect, but a really well-thought-out way to honor all the 13 years of hard work our students have put forth thus far,” she said. “It’s never going to be exactly what everyone wants, but we are doing our absolute best and I’m a part of that direct team. We are working on plan B, if we’re allowed by the governor.”
Copperas Cove ISD will be hosting commencement ceremonies from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., May 26-28. Graduates from Copperas Cove High School will walk the stage of Lea Ledger Auditorium at an allotted time, with up to six family members in attendance. The ceremony will also be live-streamed via social media channels. The full ceremony is also be recorded and broadcast on the CCISD official YouTube page at 7:30 p.m., May 29.
“I feel as though (CCISD) made sure the recognition was there for us even if it is in small groups at a time,” senior class co-president Maddie Miller, said in a CCISD press release. “I’m so excited for my classmates who are first generation graduates to be able to have not only the sense of accomplishment, but also the recognition. Graduating is a huge deal and CCISD has done everything to ensure we don’t miss out on this experience.”
In addition to the graduation, the Class of 2020 graduates will be featured in a parade honoring the senior class at 9 a.m., May 30. Seniors are encouraged to decorate their vehicles for the special event in their honor.
“It is truly amazing that our administrators and teachers are working hard to give the Class of 2020 a chance to walk the stage this year, even if it’s not in the normal setting everyone is used to. I still get to walk the stage and receive my diploma right in front of my family,” Gabriella Gorres, a senior ranked seventh in her class of 495 seniors, said. “I really do appreciate all the extra effort everyone is putting forth to make these graduation celebrations special for us, even under these circumstances.”
“We’re trying to salvage as many as them (end-of-year ceremonies) as we can,” Barrett Pollard, Gatesville ISD superintendent, said. “It won’t be as good as doing it in person, but we’re gonna try to get something together.”
The district is conducting virtual ceremonies for National Honor Society, senior commitment ceremonies, scholarships, awards, baccalaureate and commencement – with a twist.
“We’re going to ask each senior and up to six family members to come up to McKamie Stadium and we’re gonna film each individual student walking the stage and receiving their diploma from their loved ones,” Pollard said in a video message to the graduates. “From a health standpoint, we’ve gotten the OK for that because families obviously share germs.”
A professional videographer will compile the videos together for a special graduation video, which will be broadcast on the big screen at the Last Drive-in Picture Show at 8:30 p.m., May 21. Each senior will receive one ticket for one vehicle of family members to watch the graduation video at the drive-in. After it’s streamed for the first time at the drive-in, the graduation video will be streamed via the GISD social media pages.
For those still seeking a traditional graduation, Pollard said they tentatively have an in-person graduation scheduled for 8:30 p.m., July 24, at McKamie Stadium. He said the ceremony will only take place if social distancing protocols have been lifted, but said the ceremony will not be as long as a typical graduation due to the extreme summer heat.
“An overwhelming majority of you desired a graduation ceremony where you could walk the stage,” Dr. Matt Smith, Belton ISD superintendent, said in a press release to the senior class. “We heard you and are excited to announce plans to offer a personalized outdoor event that allows you to walk the stage while allowing for essential safety practices.”
Belton ISD individual commencement ceremonies will be held, June 18, at Tiger Field. Belton New Tech High School will graduate its seniors in the morning and Belton High School graduation will be held in the afternoon and evening. The graduation experience will begin will a car parade to the Tiger Field parking lot.
“You’re the grand marshal, so decorate your vehicle, honk, wave and get excited about celebrating 13 years of hard work,” Smith said.
Up to five family members will be allowed to attend the individual ceremony, which is expected to take between 15-20 minutes per graduate.
After sunset, graduates are invited back to Tiger Stadium for a Class of 2020 fireworks show, with a complete special broadcast dedicated to the graduates.
In a video posted on the Temple ISD YouTube channel, Monday, Dr. Bobby Ott, TISD superintendent, announced they will be hosting a traditional commencement ceremony at 7:30 p.m., June 12, at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Crusader Stadium.
“We reached out to our neighbors, the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor, and they answered our call,” Ott said. “Due to UMHB’s compassion, we will be able to host, as promised, an in-person traditional graduation ceremony.”
Ott said to adhere to social distancing protocols, the number of attendees had to be capped to maintain a six-foot distance per household. To comply with the protocols, each graduate will be given three tickets to the ceremony – one for themselves and two for family or friends. The superintendent said nobody would be allowed to enter the stadium without a ticket, including the graduate. In lieu of the in-person ceremony, a virtual graduation video will be posted on the Temple ISD YouTube channel at the same time as the in-person graduation. He said the video is not a live-stream, but a video of the in-person graduation would be released on the YouTube channel a few days after the ceremony.
“I cannot wait to see you again as you step across that stage and step into your future,” Ott said, addressing the senior class. “Now, class of 2020, let’s do this!”