Waco Independent School District Superintendent Susan Kincannon reversed course Tuesday to allow graduating seniors to bring two guests to the district’s graduation ceremonies at the Waco ISD Stadium, the district announced in a letter to families.
The decision comes two weeks after Waco ISD students began signing a Change.org petition asking the district to allow a limited number of guests to attend Waco ISD’s two high school graduation ceremonies. The petition garnered 1,240 signatures before Kincannon announced the change in plans.
Waco ISD will hold a graduation ceremony for University High School at 10 a.m. on May 29 and for Waco High School at 10 a.m. on May 30 at the Waco ISD Stadium. Both the University High School and Waco High School ceremonies will be broadcast on the Waco ISD channel and at WacoISD.org/live.
“Over the last week and a half, we’ve heard from many of our seniors and their families,” Kincannon wrote in a letter to Waco ISD families. “They told us that it was incredibly important to them for our seniors to be able to have a limited number of guests at the graduation ceremonies.”
Since then, the district has consulted with local health experts, including the Waco-McLennan County Public Health Director Brenda Gray, about how best to screen students, staff and guests for 11 symptoms of COVID-19, a requirement by the state for all in-person graduation ceremonies.
Kincannon said last week that the decision not to let anyone other than seniors and district staff attend the graduation ceremonies came down to safety concerns about increasing the risk of spreading COVID-19. But many students, family members and friends decried that decision after seeing surrounding school districts allowing guests at their ceremonies.
China Spring High School, Connally High School, La Vega High School and Midway High School all will hold their graduation ceremonies at stadiums, while allowing a limited number of guests. Midway has not determined how many guests graduates can have, while China Spring will allow up to 8 guests, Connally will allow four and La Vega will allow two family members.
On or after May 29, all school districts may hold outdoor in-person graduation ceremonies while practicing social distancing and limiting attendance to students, families, friends and staff, according to the Texas Education Agency. District staff must screen all participating students, staff and guests by asking 11 questions related to COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone with signs of the 11 symptoms must be excluded from the event. Members of the same household do not have to remain 6 feet apart, but all others must maintain that distance.
Waco ISD will send out detailed instructions to seniors on how the graduation ceremonies will be conducted, but the district will not distribute tickets for the ceremonies. Guests must arrive with their graduate and enter the stadium together, and no guests will be allowed to enter the stadium unaccompanied by a graduate.
Each senior will have a designated time to arrive at the stadium and an assigned entry gate. That information also will be provided later this week.
Before entering the stadium, everyone must complete a screening form and have their temperature checked. Anyone with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or with a temperature higher than 99.5 degrees will not be able to attend the ceremonies.
Additionally, all participants must wear a mask or other face covering over their nose and mouth at all times. Graduates may remove their masks for official photos, but everyone must bring their own masks.
“I am incredibly proud of seniors and their accomplishments,” Kincannon wrote in the letter. “This isn’t just their milestone. It’s also a milestone for the family members, friends and mentors who have supported them along the way. I am happy that our seniors will have the people closest to them cheering them on as they graduate.”