Will graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020 be cancelled?

School districts work to honor accomplishments of high school seniors

SAN ANTONIO – When the Johnson High School dance team headed to Florida to compete in the National Dance Alliance Nationals competition during spring break, senior Lyanna Noriega never imagined it would be the last time she would see her closest friends before graduation.

“When we got back (from the competition), we realized we weren’t going to go back to school,” Noriega said. “As far as for, like, my dance team, we don’t get our spring show anymore. I was just hoping that we’d be able to come back to school before the school year would end, but I don’t think that’s going to happen at this point.

For many seniors like Noriega, trips, competitions and even prom has been cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic. Now Noriega wonders what the fate of her high school graduation to celebrate her academic accomplishments, as well as of her peers, will be.

Johnson High School senior, Lyanna Noriega poses at competition with her mother, Leticia Noriega. When the Johnson High School Dance team headed to Florida to compete in the National Dance Alliance Nationals competition during spring break, Lyanna never imagined it’d be the last time she’d see her closest friends before graduation. (Leticia Noriega)

“I'm graduating summa cum lade. My cumulative GPA was over 100 for all four years,” Noriega said.

“The venue (Johnson High School was) going to use for graduation is now a temporary COVID19 (site) so, we can't use that anymore,” Noriega said.

Johnson High School was set to have its graduation on May 31 at Freeman Coliseum. In a statement uploaded on YouTube, NEISD Superintendent, Sean Maika, addressed why rescheduling might be a challenge for their district.

“Freeman Coliseum is not available for consecutive days during the summer,” Maika said. “Other locations that are potentially available cannot accommodate the number of seats that we need for your family and friends.”

Maika stated their last option is a virtual graduation.

“Of course, there is no substitution for the real thing,” Maika said. “Yet, I am committed to providing you the ceremonial closure that you deserve.”

It’s a moment of a lifetime that Somerset Independent School District spokesman, Maury Vásquez said isn’t optional.

“They put 12 years of hard work,” Vásquez said. “They deserve their moment in the spotlight.”

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Somerset ISD plans to reschedule the graduation ceremonies for Somerset High School and Zacharias Early Leadership Academy to mid-July at Freeman Coliseum.

“If that is not doable, we’re going to revert back to the old school way,” Vásquez said. “We’re going to be in Bulldog Stadium and it might be hot and sweaty and sticky in late July, but the Somerset ISD class of 2020 deserve it.”

South San Antonio ISD officials said they have not finalized a plan for graduation, but are looking at all options.

In a YouTube video released Wednesday afternoon, Southside ISD Superintendent, Mark E. Eads, addressed graduating seniors and said, “You’re going to have a good experience so, don’t worry about it. The Southside team will make sure you have a great graduation.”

Edgewood ISD spokesperson, Keyhla Calderon-Lugo said they do hope to have a graduation ceremony for seniors.

“As of right now, the date is June 6, 2020. However, given the current health crisis, an alternate date is being considered if necessary. EISD will continue to follow the guidelines of health authorities as well as local and state officials for decisions made on graduation,” Calderon-Lugo said.

Alamo Heights ISD spokeswoman, Patti Pawlik-Perales, clarified the district is working to establish an alternative date and location for the Alamo Heights High School graduation.

“Our Alamo Heights High School graduation ceremony was set for May 21 at Laurie Auditorium. Due to the public health crisis, Trinity University has canceled the use of Laurie Auditorium for events until after June 30th,” Pawlik-Perales said. “Our Alamo Heights High School principal, Mrs. Garinger, is working with a team of staff, parents, and students. This group will work to make recommendations about an updated plan for our graduation celebration.”

Although disappointed at how her senior year turned out, Noriega is hopeful she can reunite with her friends before leaving home for college.

“I’d say it's hard, but it's not unbearable in the long run,” Noriega said. “I think we'll be fine.”

Noriega now waits to receive her graduation cap and gown along with her National Honor Society stole.

The next step for school districts is to figure out a safe distribution of graduation attire once memorabilia manufacture companies deliver their orders.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.


About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.