For one final time, the Brownsville Independent School District’s Class of 2020 will gather for commencement ceremonies beginning Monday at Sam’s Memorial Stadium.
The ceremonies start at 7:30 p.m. on successive nights for each of the seven BISD high schools. That much is just like every other year.
Everything else is different, thanks to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which turned end-of-the year activities for this year’s senior class on their ear. The Class of 2020 hasn’t been physically together for classes or anything else since the pandemic hit during Spring Break.
At first it looked like there might not even be actual live graduation ceremonies. That changed on May 5 when Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath authorized outdoor in-person ceremonies across the state as long as social distancing guidelines are followed. BISD has been planning its versions of the historic events since then.
“The Class of 2020 is graduating during a historic and unusual time and that makes it unique and different for you,” Superintendent Rene Gutierrez said in a letter to the graduates on Wednesday. “Your dedication and hard work have paid off and it is appropriate to be recognized for your achievements. This is the time to celebrate. All of our teachers stand with you and share the excitement and joy of your accomplishments.”
Graduates are picking up packets at their schools with instructions for graduation night, tickets for two guests, and where and when to report. Students are reporting to holding rooms around the stadium and at the Central Administrative Building, the onetime Brownsville High School on Palm Boulevard adjacent to Sams.
As in other years, each graduate will get to walk across the stage to receive their diploma. They will then be dismissed in groups of 20 to meet their parents in the parking lot. This is to avoid the large crowds and traffic jams that usually characterize a graduation at Sams Stadium.
“I can’t wait to see them. I can’t wait to see the parents,” Porter Principal Mary Solis said. “Talking to the kids, this is the one thing they wanted. They didn’t get to have prom, they didn’t get to have their awards ceremony and the other things and they understand, but they really wanted to have graduation.”\
To maintain social distancing, family members will be allowed to sit together but will have assigned seating six feet apart from other family groups. All graduates and guests will be expected to wear a face mask or face covering and maintain social distancing entering and leaving the stadium. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the stadium. Only unopened bottled water can be brought in. Everyone entering the stadium is subject to inspection, including by metal detectors.
Not surprisingly, BISD is requiring that any graduate or family member exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms not attend the ceremonies.
Parents may enter the stadium through Gates 12 or 13 and exit through Gate 8. Graduates will report to their holding room prior to the ceremony and exit the stadium through Gate 13 to meet their parents in the parking lot and leave.
Rivera Early College High School will go first on Monday, followed by Hanna, Veterans Memorial, Pace, BECHS, Lopez and Porter on June 7.