CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- The past year has been anything but traditional for Arizona students. After prom was canceled, some Chandler students and parents hoped for a normal graduation celebration.

Chandler Unified School District capped the number of people seniors can bring to the outdoor event at four. This comes as the district is planning the superintendent's retirement party. It announced the April 29th outdoor celebration on Facebook, inviting the community to RSVP.

"It just seems really unfair," said Chandler High School senior parent, Holly Neil. "The optics of it really puts one individual who definitely deserves a celebration, but as a higher priority than the kids."

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the district wrote:

The outdoor come-and-go event scheduled in Dr. Casteel's honor was intentionally designed to follow the COVID mitigation strategies currently in place for CUSD gatherings. Attendees will be outside for the duration. Capacity will be limited. RSVP is required so capacity can be monitored. Masks will be required, and social distancing encouraged. Attendees will be encouraged to walk through a display depicting Dr. Casteel's 50 years of service. Volunteers will be available to manage the flow of visitors. As we near the end of 2021 and recognize the accomplishments of students and staff, the best practices for COVID mitigation will remain a priority.

When district proms got canceled, Neil said parents planned their own dances for seniors. Now the mom hopes to make another milestone special for her daughter - graduation.

"We have people coming in from Montana and Washington state," said Neil. "We have to choose who gets to attend."

For senior Julissa Estrada, she hoped to bring ten people.

"I have older siblings who graduated, and so it's a letdown not only for me but for my family who were excited to see me graduate," said Estrada.

A district spokesperson says the retirement party for Dr. Camille Casteel will be capped at 500 guests while it has 900 students walking at Chandler High School's graduation. If each student brings four guests, 4,500 people will be there. It's a huge number, but Neil feels no one should miss the special day.

"You can't replace those once-in-a-lifetime events," said Neil.


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