Breckenridge Texan

BISD makes plans for June 6 graduation at Buckaroo Stadium

BISD makes plans for June 6 graduation at Buckaroo Stadium
May 12
10:26 2020

It may be an event the likes of which this community has never seen before, but Breckenridge school district administrators are planning a graduation ceremony that they hope will satisfy local students and their families as well as the state guidelines.

The plans were announced at Monday evening’s school board meeting.

Breckenridge High School Principal Dr. William Paul talks to the school board about the upcoming graduation plans. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

With school being out since Spring Break due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and local and state regulations restricting the number of people in one place for the past two months, the status of the Breckenridge High School Class of 2020’s graduation has been up in the air. But, those restrictions have been loosened recently by the governor and local officials, leading the Texas Education Agency to issue a “comprehensive graduation guidance for Texas school systems” last week.

The current plan includes each Breckenridge High School senior getting 10 tickets to give to family and friends for a graduation ceremony scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, June 6, at Buckaroo Stadium.

The morning schedule is planned in order to avoid the heat of the day, administrators said. The event will start with the students’ group picture at 8:30 a.m., followed by an awards ceremony at 8:50 a.m. The graduation ceremony is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and is expected to close at about 10:30 a.m.

In addition to each senior getting 10 tickets, there will be about 200 tickets for community members. That will be a total of about 1,200 people attending the graduation.

The June date is required in order to comply with the Texas Education Agency’s guidelines, which allow for outdoor ceremonies in any Texas county after June 1. Breckenridge High School Principal Dr. William Paul said they surveyed the seniors and they were willing to have a June graduation if it meant that they could have more people attend the event.

The TEA’s other options include virtual ceremonies, vehicle ceremonies, hybrid ceremonies at which students celebrate in small groups, and more limited outdoor ceremonies before June 1.

“The reason we picked Saturday over Friday is a lot of people are trying to get back to work right now (and we) didn’t want to take a day of work from them if we didn’t have to,” Paul said. “Of course, we’re also going to be outside, which TEA said that was the only way you’re going to do it, if you did it in person. An indoor graduation is not an option.”

When school board member Carrol Kanady raised questions about the early morning schedule, Paul explained that the artificial turf on the football field absorbs the heat and will still be hot late into the evening hours.

Although the TEA is allowing outdoor ceremonies after June 1, there are still restrictions in place that Breckenridge Independent School District officials have to follow. Those attending the graduation may sit in groups of no more than five people together, and those groups of five must be six feet apart from the next group. So, although each senior will get 10 tickets for family and friends, all 10 people will not get to sit together.

“It will be five and then a blank row and then another five here,” he said. “So, 1,200 is about the best we can do and maintain our six-foot spacing, as we’re still required right now.”

The school district is responsible for monitoring and enforcing the social distancing rules and will use BISD personnel, as well as Breckenridge police and the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office to help ensure that everyone follows the guidelines.

New BISD Superintendent Bryan Allen said that the number of people allowed to attend the ceremony is not based on capacity of the facility, which has caused some confusion. “I really thought that they were going to base our guidelines on what we could do, as far as, like, retail shops,” he said. “You, know, if you could have 50 percent capacity, I had in my mind that if that stadium’s supposed to hold 6,000, we could have 3,000 and be fine. They’re holding (school districts) to a different standard. They’re not allowing that. So, we’re not based on capacity. We’re having to go by a different set of rules. It’s frustrating, but that’s the world we live in when we’re working with the TEA and the state government. Sometimes, the public school system is held to different set of rules and a different standard.”

Additionally, BISD is working on a plan to live-stream the ceremony, so that anyone who is sick or uncomfortable attending a large gathering, due to the threat of COVID-19, can still watch the event safely.

The TEA guidelines recommend that everyone attending and participating in the ceremony wear protective face coverings and that anyone dealing with documents, such as the diplomas, wear gloves. The BISD plan includes providing masks and gloves to the students, who likely will be able to choose whether or not to wear the protection.

“TEA is recommending as many safety and health guidelines as you’re willing to put into place,” Paul said. “So, we haven’t made a final decision about whether students will wear gloves and masks. I think it’s smart for us to hand out masks and gloves and highly recommend it but not necessarily require it.”

Although BISD administrators are trying to keep the graduation as close to the traditional ceremony as possible, there will be some differences, based on the state requirements. For example, Paul said, the diplomas will probably be placed on a table for the students to pick up, rather than have them handed directly to the student. Additionally, the traditional handshake by school officials and school board members will not be allowed.

Paul said one situation that school districts across the state are facing is the time period immediately following the graduation. “The biggest issue is not really getting everybody in and getting settled; it’s the after-party. That’s going to be the management nightmare. It’s not going to be a big emotional deal,” he said. “It’s going to be this row go, this row go, this row go, and then everybody go to the house and do whatever you need to do. That’s going to be the sticky part.”

Another difference is that this year’s graduation will include the annual awards ceremony. The awards are usually handed out at a separate ceremony, but since the TEA guidelines state that the students may be brought together for only one event, the awards will be announced prior to the graduation. Likewise, there will not be a separate rehearsal; Paul said the district is considering a rehearsal video for the students to watch in preparation.

“We need to use some common sense and try and be as safe as we can, at the same time,” Allen said. “This is a difficult situation … we have to follow the guidance that’s out there and be as safe as possible but also use some common sense, too, and let people make some decisions for themselves on how to keep them as safe as possible.”

The TEA specifies that the guidelines may continue to be modified, as the public health situation changes. If any of those changes affect the BISD plan, it will be changed accordingly.

BISD will post the graduation plan and schedule on its website and Facebook pages.

 

Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: New Breckenridge Independent School District Superintendent Bryan Allen, center, talks to the school board, including President Graham Reaugh and Vice President Ardes Johnson, at Allen’s first BISD board meeting on May 11. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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