In the year of a “novel coronavirus,” West Side’s graduation ceremony will be novel in its safety precautions, joining thousands of schools who have altered what are sometimes rigid traditions of the ceremony. Though the ceremony will be conducted much like it has in years past, it will require all attending to wear face coverings. Additionally, spectators must have a ticket to be admitted.
Graduation for members of the Class of 2020, originally scheduled in May, is set for 7 p.m. Friday, July 10, at Brady-Hipp Arena. The district now believes a ceremony to honor seniors can be safely conducted while minimizing health risks; however, conditions in this area of the state and guidance from the state will dictate whether the ceremony takes place as scheduled.
For graduation, the school will require spectators to wear a face covering during the ceremony and to obtain a ticket for admission. Tickets are free of charge and will be available for pickup at the high school office beginning tomorrow. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 8 a.m. to noon on Thursday; however, this week the office will close at noon Thursday in observance of Independence Day. The office will be closed on Friday but will reopen with regular summer hours next week.
On the night of graduation, spectators are encouraged to arrive as early as 6 p.m. when the doors open. Because social distancing, entry into the Arena will be slower than normal. Staff members will also be verifying masks and tickets at the door.
Approved by the state Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, West Side School District’s graduation plan is focused on public safety and follows the state Department of Health’s Phase II directive for large indoor venues. Among other things, the guidelines require:
- face coverings to be worn by anyone age 10 or older;
- a 6-foot social distance while at the arena, except for households, which may sit together;
- a crowd limited to 66% of the venue’s capacity; and
- the entire arena to be disinfected before and after the event.
Other frequently asked questions about the ceremony …
Is a face covering optional?
Wearing a face covering is optional only for children who are age 9 or younger. Spectators age 10 and older who are not wearing a face covering will not be admitted. Spectators should come with a face covering as only a limited number of courtesy face coverings will be available at the door.
May I sit with family members and friends?
Household groups may sit together. Groups must remain 6 feet apart from other groups.
Will spectators be screened before entering?
No, spectators will not be screened because the safety measures in place, when followed by all, minimize the risk of virus transmission in an appropriate way. However, for the good of public health, no one should attend who:
- has potentially been exposed to COVID-19 within the previous 14 days;
- has run a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher in the previous 14 days;
- or has coughing or shortness of breath.
How will the 6-foot social distance rule work in the Arena?
Seating of spectators in every other row and leaving two seats unoccupied will provide 6 feet of distance. The concourse area will be available for those who would like to stand, provided they maintain a 6-foot halo of social distance. Additionally, the wheelchair accessible areas are also available on the concourse.
Will graduating seniors and staff be safe?
Members of the senior class will be spaced 6 feet apart on the Arena floor, spaced to meet the 12-foot perimeter required by the state directive. They, too, must wear a face covering but do have the option to remove it for a photo during presentation of the diploma. Staff members wearing masks will also be seated on the Arena floor, 6 feet apart. Because speakers are allowed to remove the face covering, the microphone and podium will be disinfected before and after each speaker.
“I want to come but I am worried about exposure.”
There is no way to completely eliminate risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus, but the school is following the state directive to ensure risk is minimized. The entire arena will be disinfected before and after graduation practice and before and after the ceremony. Staff members will monitor the parking lot to ensure crowds do not congregate. Walkways will be marked every 6 feet to indicate safe distances. The Arena door will remain open to eliminate physical contact with common surfaces. Hand sanitizer will be available at the Arena entrance, along the concourse, and in restrooms. Common contact surfaces will be disinfected during the ceremony as well. Infectious disease experts continue to spread the message that the best way to minimize risk is to wash hands frequently and maintain social distancing.
After the ceremony, may I present a gift to a graduate?
West Side’s approved plan follows the state directive for large indoor venues, which requires the crowd to exit the Arena following social distancing guidelines without congregating in the parking lot.
For more information, contact the office at (501) 825-7241.