PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - High school seniors missing out on graduation has been the norm this year, but for some people in the Peoria Unified School District, it now feels like the ceremony was ripped away from them twice.
After the original commencement ceremonies for Centennial, Cactus, Ironwood, Liberty, Peoria, Raymond S. Kellis, and Sunrise Mountain High Schools were postponed in May, the district secured June 26 and 27 as dates for the seniors to walk across the stage at State Farm Stadium.
But with coronavirus numbers still spiking this week, PUSD decided to call off graduation altogether – a decision they say they didn’t take lightly.
“It’s an extremely difficult decision. We are talking about the event that truly is the culmination of the hard work and the achievement of 2,900 of our students,” said chief communications officer Danielle Airey. “We have been hopeful, so very hopeful, that we would see a stronger decline in our communities that would allow us to be able to proceed.”
Peoria Unified students were supposed to have their ceremonies on June 26 and 27 at State Farm Stadium.
Many parents, like Mitch and Dawn Marie Goldberg, whose daughter attended Liberty High School, have been fuming about it on social media. They say there should at least be some sort of virtual ceremony like other schools have done.
“I think everybody can get behind not doing the arena, if that’s a safety concern. But why is there not an alternate option given?” asked Dawn Marie. “What is the roadblock?”
“The school can make that happen just right on their football field. I don’t understand,” Mitch said. “Or a drive-through.”
Airey says each high school did host its own drive-up event where students could get pick up caps and gowns, or receive their diplomas with that classic photo opp with the principal. But some parents say that’s not enough.
“It was fun for the kids to have something to look forward to, but it was certainly not anything close to anything like a graduation,” Dawn Marie said.
As they leave their high school years behind, one New Hampshire school had its graduates riding high.
The district says there’s no way they could have safely had seven graduations over the course of two days in just the small section of the stadium that was reserved.
“Everybody has a different barometer for what it means to be safe,” Airey said.
Plenty of other parents applauded the district’s decision, thanking them for avoiding the risk.
"I feel for the [s]eniors and their families, of course, but this is the correct decision," wrote Tracy Williams on the district's Facebook page.
"I commend the school district for making the smartest decision. The safety of the community should come first!" wrote Melissa Ujke.
Airey says in an online poll the district sent to parents, 55-60% of respondents said they felt a graduation ceremony was no longer necessary at this point.
As for the $70,000 PUSD would have spent on graduations, that will go toward commencement ceremonies in 2021.