The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live our lives in recent weeks.
Among the many major disruptions has been to the graduating Class of 2020. Schools were closed indefinitely in March, before the academic year was officially shut down earlier this month.
Those closures set off a chain reaction of cancellations – no more Senior Prom, no more Senior awards celebration, no more spring sports, and, potentially, no more graduation ceremony like the one that had been anticipated.
The latest news from around North Texas.
Several North Texas school districts confirmed that they expect to be able to announce graduation plans by the end of the week, including Allen ISD, Dallas ISD, Fort Worth ISD, and Grand Prairie ISD.
“As you can imagine, being the largest district in North Texas, we’re balancing the needs of 37 graduations previously planned, and about 9,000 seniors, before finalizing what will occur,” said Robyn Harris, Director of News and Information for Dallas ISD.
“This has been extremely difficult for everyone, not just the Fort Worth ISD,” said Clint Bond, Executive Director of External and Emergency Communications for Fort Worth ISD. “The options are quite limited. The way to answer that question [of what this process has been like] is that it is a dance we’re learning as we go.”
The Grand Prairie Independent School District is considering several options for graduations, which include moving the commencement ceremonies to a later date – they have secured dates in both June and July, according to a district spokesperson – or hosting a “special celebration for graduates and their families in a virtual setting.”
“Our goal is to find the most appropriate way to honor the work of our graduating seniors while doing our best to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved,” said Sam Buchmeyer, Public Information Officer for Grand Prairie ISD.
The Keller Independent School District has moved its graduation date from May 23 to July 25 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth and intends to hold its regular commencement celebration.
A Keller ISD spokesperson noted that the district is doing other things, in the meantime, to honor and recognize its seniors, including social media tributes, and acknowledgments on its district website.
NBC DFW is also doing its part to help proud parents and families celebrate their graduates.
Many people have submitted photos of their senior to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with an explanation of how they are handling these unexpected times.
Ali Jirani is a senior at Brighter Horizons Academy in Garland. His mother writes that Ali will play soccer at Drury University in Missouri, but that the coronavirus even played a role in that decision.
“He had to sign his commitment letter by himself, at home, and email it rather than have the regular visit from the coaches,” Abigail Jirani noted. “[Ali] is focused on what is coming next, and not so much on what is behind, or what could or should have been.”
Perla Baquera wrote that the coronavirus pandemic, and its impact, has been difficult for her daughter, Destiny, who is set to graduate from Fossil Ridge High School in Keller.
Destiny will attend Texas A&M University in the fall, which she chose from a list of 30 colleges she had been accepted to.
“[This] has been really hard on her. She is the oldest of her siblings, the first one to graduate,” Perla Baquera wrote. “She breaks down often, but pulls herself together and knows that this is out of her control.”
Multiple submissions include photographs that parody, or at least acknowledge, current events.
A photo of stepbrothers – or ‘bonus brothers’ as they prefer to be called – Mitchell Warnock and Connor Hultman of Denton County features the pair leaning on a blackboard that reads, “Class of 2020: The One Where They Were Quarantined.”
Warnock is a senior at Denton High School, and Hultman is a senior at R.L. Turner High School, and the pair plan to room together in the fall at Texas A&M University.
“They are sad that graduation is likely going to be postponed, or at least look really different than normal,” said Matt Warnock. “But we have discussed that it does not take away from your accomplishments and will make you stronger in the long run.”
Aya Russell, a senior at Westwood High School in Palestine, is seen posing with disposable gloves on her hands, wearing her cap and gown and standing in front of a large painted fence that reads, “Wash Your Hands.”
“This picture was taken the weekend the shelter in place became a reality,” said her aunt, Tamara Russell. “We thought the ‘Wash Your Hands’ sign was perfect for the times. Little did we know how long this would go on.”
Tamara Russell noted that the pandemic has made Aya all the more determined to fulfill her career goal of becoming a nurse.