Graduation set for PIHS’ Class of 2020

By Gaige Davila & David Lopez

After a seemingly-endless period of will-it-or-won’t-it happen, Port Isabel High School’s Class of 2020 will graduate in an in-person ceremony.

The graduation will be held at Tarpon Stadium on June 4 at 7:00 p.m.

Details on how Point Isabel Independent School District (PI-ISD) will conduct the graduation have yet to be announced. Seating will be limited, according to a release by the school district.

Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath announced on May 5 that in-person graduation ceremonies were allowed, so long as they were outdoors and groups were six feet apart.  In-person graduating ceremonies, the TEA outlined in a guide, could start on or after Monday, June 1.

The TEA also permitted virtual ceremonies, hybrid ceremonies, where graduation ceremonies occurred in small groups watching virtual ceremonies recognizing students and vehicle ceremonies, where students and families wait in their cars as graduates are recognized one at a time.

In lieu of an in-person ceremony, PI-ISD organized several parades throughout Laguna Vista, Port Isabel, Laguna Heights and South Padre Island, recognizing the top ten students in the Class of 2020, then the entire class. PI-ISD administrators, teachers and police drove through neighborhoods in convoys before stopping, giving each student a yard sign.

A “Virtual Decision Day” was held on PI-ISD’s Facebook page on May 1, where this year’s seniors submitted photos showing where they were going after graduating, whether to university or the military.

School districts across Cameron County are also announcing plans for their graduation ceremonies, many choosing outdoor in-person events.

Last Thursday, the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District announced via its Facebook page that they would be holding the Class of 2020’s graduation ceremony on Friday, June 12, at 7:30 p.m. at Bobby Morrow Stadium.

The inclement weather (“rain delay”) plan is to hold the ceremony on Saturday, June 13, at 9 a.m.

According to the district, officials are currently outlining protocols to ensure the safety and health of graduates, staff, and guests. The district will provide all graduates and their families with the information once all the details have been determined. Unfortunately, due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, these plans are subject to change.

TEA guidance lists several requirements for school districts considering in-person ceremonies, including face coverings, structured crowd management with tightly structured arrival and dismissal procedures, social distancing throughout the event, and health screening of everyone in attendance (via questionnaire).

Brownsville Independent School District was the first district in Cameron County to announce they were holding a live-in graduation ceremony last Tuesday, May 5, following Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath’s decision to approve outdoor in-person ceremonies.

Other school districts in the county have since followed suit, including Los Fresnos CISD and La Feria ISD.
Rio Hondo ISD is also holding an in-person graduation ceremony on June 5 at 8 p.m. at the Bobcat Stadium.

Rio Hondo High School principal Asael Ruvalcaba said they are fortunate to have only 136 graduates compared to the bigger school districts, allowing them to issue four guests per graduate. “We’re going to skip bleachers between rows of people, we’re going to have families on both sides of the stadium, all must wear a mask, we’ll have hand sanitizing stations,” said Principal Ruvalcaba.

Meanwhile, Harlingen CISD has maintained virtual graduations for both Harlingen High and Harlingen South High School scheduled for May 23 while an outdoor in-person ceremony is tentatively scheduled for July 15.

A PIHS graduation was last held at Tarpon Stadium in 2008. Since then, PIHS’ graduations have been held at the South Padre Island Convention Centre.

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