This story has been updated with a graduation announcement from Southside and Northside ISDs.
Gov. Greg Abbott gave permission to school districts around the state to celebrate graduation ceremonies outdoors starting May 29, and most local school districts plan to take advantage.
The alternatives are virtual graduation or hybrid ceremonies where students graduate in small groups or individually.
“Imagine 5,000 people on a Zoom call,” Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath said at a May 5 press conference where permission was given for ceremonies held outside. “Outdoor graduation ceremonies – think of what you may have seen at the Air Force Academy a few weeks ago, with similar measures.”
If districts decide to hold an outside ceremony, they must comply with safety precautions including a cap on participants to maximize social distancing and screening for symptoms of COVID-19 for all guests and graduates.
The Texas Education Agency offered further guidance, encouraging districts to consider making all attendees wear face coverings, positioning hand sanitizer or hand-washing stations at all venue entrances, and enforcing a 6-foot space requirement between all participants and households.
San Antonio ISD
San Antonio Independent School District officials announced Monday evening they would hold outdoor graduation ceremonies for all high school seniors at Alamo Stadium in June.
“We are excited that we are able to move forward with in-person ceremonies, especially earlier in the summer, which allows our graduates to begin pursuing their future plans,” Superintendent Pedro Martinez said. “It is important to honor our students’ achievements as they begin to make a transition to the next phase in life.”
SAISD students will receive two guest tickets and one parking space. Attendees must wear masks and sit 6 feet apart from other guests.
South San Antonio ISD
South San Antonio ISD will also hold an outdoor graduation ceremony at Alamo Stadium, taking place on June 9. The district also plans to release a virtual graduation video on June 4, the district’s original graduation date.
South San will also commemorate the “final bell” of students’ senior year with a special event. Students will park in front of the school for the last time as high school seniors and exit together as the final bell rings.
Harlandale ISD was among the first school districts to announce outdoor ceremonies. The graduation ceremonies for each high school will take place at Harlandale Memorial Stadium from June 1-3. The district will allow graduates to invite four guests who must sit spaced apart from other households.
“Our community is truly rich in traditions and eagerly wanted to celebrate the Class of 2020 in person,” said Melissa Casey, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “The Board of Trustees and Superintendent Soto wanted this to happen and we were looking for ways to make it possible. Now we will be able to celebrate.”
Southwest ISD plans to celebrate its graduates in outdoor ceremonies on June 5 and 6 at Southwest Legacy Stadium. Graduates will receive two tickets and a parking pass for guests. They will enter the stadium in staggered 20-minute increments for health checks and socially distant entering and exiting.
The district will screen all graduates and passengers in their vehicles for COVID-19 symptoms. Only one graduate will be on stage at any time. Southwest ISD will livestream the ceremony.
Alamo Heights ISD
Alamo Heights ISD will host an outdoor graduation ceremony for graduates and their parents on June 2 at the Real Life Amphitheater in Selma. The district will livestream the ceremony for those not able to attend in person.
Somerset ISD plans to host outdoor graduations for its seniors at the district’s football stadium on June 5 and 6. The district will encourage but not mandate face coverings for all attendees.
East Central ISD
Not all outdoor graduation ceremonies will resemble the traditional senior event, however. East Central ISD will host a graduation ceremony parade on May 30 with students assigned a start time to circle the high school by last name.
The school district encourages graduates to wear their caps and gowns while riding in their cars. Graduates will be able to cross a stage individually and take graduation photos.
North East ISD
North East ISD will hold its graduation ceremony indoors with students able to walk the stage at their campuses in staggered ceremonies. NEISD will allow individual students and five guests, who all live at the same address, to enter the school auditorium to watch the awarding of the diploma. After receiving their diploma, students and their guests will exit. The district will livestream the events.
Northside ISD Superintendent Brian Woods announced on Tuesday each school would allow seniors to walk the stage at their campuses, collect their diplomas, and take photos the week of June 15. Each graduate can invite four guests to attend. All attendees will be prescreened for coronavirus symptoms.
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Southside ISD will hold a hybrid in-person and virtual graduation ceremony in June that will allow graduates to walk across the stage if they choose. A video crew will capture each student’s walk, compile those moments and release a full video in June. The district is still evaluating an in-person event in July.
Edgewood and Judson ISDs have yet to announce concrete plans for graduation ceremonies.
Edgewood ISD plans to celebrate graduation on for Memorial High School seniors on June 11 and Kennedy High School graduates on June 12, but has not announced details on how they plan to do so.
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Judson ISD ruled out outdoor ceremonies, a district spokesperson said, but is in talks with a local venue for a possible in-person celebration in mid-July.
Southside ISD is preparing to host a virtual graduation should an in-person ceremony not work, Superintendent Mark Eads said in a video to seniors posted on May 8. The district is also looking at holding an in-person ceremony in July. Southside High School will also host a senior class parade on May 23.
Universities and colleges in San Antonio have fewer options for graduation ceremonies with significantly larger graduating classes. Most opted to host a virtual celebration and invite seniors to celebrate graduation with graduating classes in December. Texas A&M University-San Antonio held a drive-up ceremony that allowed students to take photos with the college mascot and university president from several feet away.