LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – More than 6,000 seniors at Jefferson County Public Schools will have limited in-person graduation ceremonies in May.
The Jefferson County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to allow schools to host outdoor commencement celebrations with limited attendance on May 27, May 28 and May 29. Families may also attend graduations virtually this year.
Students may be divided in up to five groups and given allotments of tickets to reduce capacities at school football stadiums, where the ceremonies will be held, according to graduation plans approved Tuesday.
"The total number of tickets will be based upon, again, the health department and the (Kentucky Department of Education) guidelines for outside stadium bleacher-style seating," said Robert Moore, chief of schools for JCPS.
Schools that don’t have football stadiums will use facilities at other schools for their graduations, which may be moved to June 1 in the district's plan because of inclement weather.
"It's exciting considering most of our school year has been online," Adriana Mulet-Miranda, an Atherton High School senior, told WDRB News. "It's a good thing that we're gonna have at least remnants of what a normal senior year should be like."
Mulet-Miranda believes her moment walking across the stage will be bittersweet. While reduced capacities may spread her fellow Atherton seniors across multiple ceremonies, she says earning her diploma will represent an important milestone for her personally.
"My parents, they came to this country for the sole purpose of me to be able to get an education and improve our situation, so the fact that I can have a testament and proof that I lived up to everything they sacrificed is really important to me," Mulet-Miranda said.
Schools will also find ways to honor the Class of 2020, whose graduations were held virtually last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, during this year's ceremonies, Moore said.
"It's exciting to see we're going to find ways to include 2020 graduates in the ceremonies as well," said board member Joe Marshall, who represents District 4.
While Tuesday's action pertains to the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021, some parents would like to see the school board allow elementary and middle schools to celebrate key transition milestones.
"Let's do it for all the grades. Your kindergartener, your 5th grader, your 8th grader, and your high schooler. Let's do it outside, and let's honor all of our students, because they definitely deserve it," said parent Bobbi Jo Kingery.
She said she was disappointed when her daughter's transition from eighth grade couldn't be recognized at a school event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants were also closed to in-person dining, meaning families couldn't dine out for the occasion, she said.
"Every parent wants to celebrate their child regardless of what grade they're graduating, so let's celebrate everybody," Kingery said. "... Let's give our babies something they can look forward to."
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