INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — In an effort to provide high school seniors a graduation that will be “as close to normal as possible,” schools have pushed back in-person ceremonies to July.
“The (seniors) wanted the opportunity to walk,” School District of Indian River County Superintendent David Moore said in a Tuesday Facebook update, sitting by school paraphernalia for Sebastian River High School and Vero Beach High School.
“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday weekend than having the opportunity to stand on a stage, watch (seniors) walk across that stage and receive their diplomas.”
Now, graduation for Sebastian River will be held July 11, with another ceremony for Vero Beach on July 10, Schools spokesperson Cristen Maddux said. Maddux clarified the July 9 and 10 dates mentioned in the Tuesday morning update were incorrect.
The decision to hold in-person ceremonies comes as other schools across the state announce virtual graduations because of coronavirus public health concerns. But, local high school seniors completed surveys, showing an overwhelming response in favor of a traditional graduation.
Vero Beach high has 681 graduating seniors, while Sebastian River high has 418 graduating seniors, Maddux said.
The graduation ceremonies for the county’s two public high schools were originally set for May 16 and May 15, Maddux said. Those dates were pushed back to June 13 and June 12, and now are pushed back to July.
Schools across Florida have been closed since March 16, prompting officials to use virtual classrooms to continue educating students.
On April 18, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that distance learning for all public and private K-12 schools will continue for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year.
“Our goal is to ensure we are best by kids,” Moore said. Moore said at no point does he want to underplay the values of the high school experience, including the feeling of accomplishment amongst seniors at traditional graduations, with family and friends watching in the stands.
The graduations for Sebastian River high and Vero high will be held at the schools’ football stadiums. Moore mentioned there will most likely be social distancing guidelines still in effect in July, though it’s unclear how extensive the rules will be at that time.
Schools are also brainstorming of ways to still celebrate seniors during the week of the original graduation date. Moore asked students and the community to come up with ideas to honor graduating seniors’ accomplishments during ‘Senior Spirit Week,’ May 11 – 15.
“This town has something most towns don’t – community,” Moore said. “As a community, we need to come together and celebrate our seniors, giving them something to remember for a lifetime.”
Anyone who has ideas for Senior Spirit Week can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.