School administrators in East Texas have been trying their best to lay out plans to honor their graduating classes of 2020.  This has been no easy task as authorities try to juggle between the safety guidelines laid out by the State of Texas and making sure that seniors are given their just recognition.

After much thought and prayer, Lufkin ISD Administrators have chosen to have a “hybrid ceremony.” A hybrid ceremony is, according to the governor’s graduation ceremony guidelines, a “compilation video of students filmed individually or in small groups.”

So, how will this specifically play out for Lufkin ISD seniors?

During the week of May 18, Lufkin graduates will get the opportunity to cross the stage in the Tom Jack Lucas auditorium with a maximum of six family members attending. Each student will be scheduled in fifteen minute increments, three students at a time. Family members can rest assured that they will be spaced out 25 feet in the hallway and that the seats in the auditorium will be frequently sanitized before the next family comes in. There will be a photographer who will take the student’s photo and a compilation video that will include all graduates, valedictorian and salutatorian speeches, and messages from Superintendent Lynn Torres and the Board of Trustees.This video will be shared through the district’s website, and each graduate will receive a copy with their diploma. Each graduate will also receive a cap and gown photo.

Superintendent Lynn Torres said, “We have to look at the big, worldwide picture. We are under these executive orders because there is still a pandemic for us to work around. We want to keep our families, students, and staff safe and after extensive conversations with high school principal Brandon Boyd and his team, we feel that the hybrid graduation is the safest way to proceed.”

The governor did approve outdoor ceremonies in his message on Tuesday, but the logistics of a graduating class of 460 students all in masks, with social distancing, and a limited number of guests was not feasible, nor desirable, according to the Lufkin ISD Administration.

“We want to make sure our parents understand the impossibility of having an outdoor graduation with all of the limitations. The governor said the ceremony would be subject to change if public health conditions change, which might make it impossible to do any type of celebration if we wait too long,”said Superintendent Lynn Torres.

With the hybrid graduation, the school district can begin the graduation process May 18 - 22, allowing seniors to “graduate” within the time they were already scheduled to do so. .

Torres said, “Using the outdoor graduation was just too risky for our community and would not be the graduation similar in any way to the graduations we’ve had in the past. What also concerns me is limiting community spread of the virus before and after the ceremony. With that many people gathered, we could not guarantee that there wouldn’t be any congregating in the parking lots and that the social distancing rules would be followed.”

With the hybrid graduation, the Lufkin ISD staff will be able to keep the process and organization in place to maintain social distancing including detailed marks on the floor of where to stand for the graduate and family, as well as directional signage. There will be plenty of hand sanitizer and wipes to make sure all attendees feel comfortable. We have consulted with legal counsel and have the approval of the City of Lufkin Emergency Management director, per the TEA guidelines, to proceed with our plan

Torres said, “Graduation is a time to make memories, and no doubt this one will be the most memorable ever. We wanted to make sure each graduate receives a DVD to have as a keepsake of their class and a photo of this special event in their lives. We are so proud of our graduates, and we appreciate the cooperation of our entire community. In the meantime, make sure and congratulate a graduate and make them feel special. We can all come together as a community and do that.”

Board of Trustees President Scott Skelton said, “The Board of Trustees are proud of our 2020 graduates and their many accomplishments and successes. We wish the graduates well on their next journey and look forward to their future accomplishments. We are sad we cannot gather at the stadium to celebrate their success, but look forward to each family celebrating the graduates in the special ceremony that has been created for this unique time in our nation’s history.  We believe this is the safest way to protect our students, their families, and our staff. The Board would like to thank the administration and the staff for the hard work that they have done to provide this unique graduation celebration.”

Seniors will be receiving more information next week on how and when to sign up for their graduation stage time scheduled for the week of May 18 - 22.

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