The Los Fresnos High School Class of 2020 will assemble one final time for commencement exercises at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Leo Aguilar Memorial Stadium in Los Fresnos.
Each graduate is to receive two tickets and one parking lot pass to the invitation-only ceremony at orientation sessions to be held Thursday and Friday evening and Saturday morning. While much of the pomp surrounding their final semester in high school has been lost this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, school officials hope the ceremony will still prove to be a memorable experience.
“We’ve identified a way to safely honor our graduates,” Superintendent Gonzalo Salazar said. “It’s one of our favorite events of the year, when an entire community comes together to honor our graduates. Now only two members from each household will be able to come and join in the festivities. … We want to accommodate everyone, but we have to do what’s right for the community. We’re able to use technology to livestream the event so that everyone can still enjoy the spirit of the ceremony, grandparents, aunts and uncles.”
The stadium normally seats 9,000 and the event is open to the public. Now it will be reduced to seating for two family members only for each graduate.
Stadium gates will open at 6 p.m. The school district recommends that families and graduates come in one vehicle and enter through the assigned parking area and stadium gate. Details will be discussed during the mandatory orientation sessions. Each senior has received a letter with particulars about his or her orientation session, including a health questionnaire to be completed by each attending family member and the graduate. These will be submitted at the gate when each family enters, and anyone with COVID-19 symptoms will not be allowed to attend.
Students will go directly to their seats and there will be no procession. Parents will be seated in close proximity to their graduate, with all seating following social distancing guidelines. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the facility, and everyone will be required to wear a mask, including graduates, who will be given a Class of 2020 mask in school colors as part of their graduation regalia.
Salazar said there are many moving parts to the plan, which will require everyone’s cooperation to be successful.
“It’s going to require a lot of discipline and self-control,” he said. “In our culture we love to celebrate but everyone will need to show some restraint and leave the congratulatory hugs for relatives and members of their own household. When the ceremony ends, we ask that seniors, instead of staying for pictures, go directly to their vehicles and exit the stadium. We have to recognize the restrictions recommended by the CDC.”
Salazar said he feels fortunate the Texas Education Agency is allowing districts to have in-person graduation ceremonies.
“If we do this right, we have the opportunity to make sure that this cohort does not miss out on the experience that is graduation exercises,” he said. “It will be special to see them again. … We were able to organize an event to recognize their accomplishments over the last 13 years. Our lives and those of our students are closely intertwined. It will be great to come together like this.”