Seminole’s Class of 2020 may yet have an in-person graduation

Seminole High School 2019 Graduation Ceremony

(Provided by Seminole High School)

Seminole High School, along with eight other public high schools in this county just north of Orlando, has postponed a scheduled June in-person graduation – citing safety concerns. But unlike many South Florida schools, it has rescheduled — on July 17.

School officials cautioned even the later date is tentative.  

According to the school board website, the graduation will be held at 8:20 pm. (In military time, that is 20:20, symbolic of the graduation year.)

The school, the largest in Seminole County, has a graduation class of 850 students. Each senior attending can bring up to four guests, though an overflow area will be available after the seating area is full. 

Michelle Backel, assistant principal of Seminole High School, is working on the plan. 

“Normally we are at the University of Central Florida Arena (in Orlando), but now we are on our football field in a much smaller and very different space,” she said. “We have to figure out the sound because it’s different acoustics, we need a portable stage, and we have to find a way to safely get people in and out of the area. It’s a lot different and a lot of work.” 

Principal Jordan Rodriguez said if county and state guidelines allow for the July graduation, guests will be encouraged to wear masks, though he said it is unlikely people will be asked to be six feet apart. He added he hopes to have hand sanitizer widely available at the ceremony. 

The president of the academic and athletic booster club, Patrick Austin, said he isn’t concerned because he believes the July heat will help protect against COVID-19. Still, he said that he will watch from afar, hoping that those with health issues take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. 

Val Jackson, the parent of a graduating senior, said that if there is graduation, she will definitely attend to support her son. 

Graduate Serra Sowers said she believes that the outdoor graduation will be a special and beautiful event, though she is concerned about how things will work.  “I am waiting to hear how they will organize us at the outdoor graduation because I am nervous with the current health guidelines,” said Sowers.

As of June 4, there have been 512 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Seminole County and 12 deaths.  

In addition to the planned outdoor graduation, school officials have arranged a virtual graduation to celebrate and honor the class of 2020.  

This article was originally published in the South Florida Media Network on June 5, 2020.

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