TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s the right of passage that won’t happen. Hillsborough County canceled in-person graduations sparking outrage and disappointment from parents and students.
The school district says they made a hard decision designed to protect families and graduates from the coronavirus.
The plan now is to do hold virtual graduations, but while families understand why this major event was canceled they feel the district didn’t do enough to look at other options.
Thousands of high school seniors in Hillsborough County were counting on a graduation ceremony, albeit a different kind than usual.
“I wanted to have that feeling of accomplishment and walking across the stage to get my diploma in front of all of my peers and my parents,” said Alix Ruben, a graduate of the 2020 class at HB Plant High School.
But COVID-19 changed all that. Seniors in Hillsborough County schools learned graduation ceremonies would be moved to mid July.
The hope was to let life get back to normal, unfortunately, it got worse with Florida seeing record number spikes in coronavirus cases. The district canceled graduation set indoors at the expo hall on the Florida State Fairgrounds.
The district tells 8 On Your Side they looked at holding it at other outside venues, but the cost for renting or sanitizing between graduations was too high. Some wish they could have held them outdoors at high school stadiums.
“I would have loved the idea of that. I was in full support. I still wish that could happen. I still would like to get enough seniors in hillsborough county to kind of speak their voices, speak up about it, get enough parents to speak up,” said Austin Johnson, another 2020 graduate of Plant High.
So for now life hasn’t worked out in a funny way; at least not yet.
“When it’s all said and done I can be like, oh that was funny. Remember when I didn’t get to graduate,” said Rubin.
While some families think the district should have done more to hold graduation like other local counties are doing – they say health officials advised to not hold any mass gatherings and instead will do a virtual and drive through graduation at schools to celebrate students.
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