Students, parents push back against virtual and drive-through graduation ceremonies

Posted at 4:39 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 20:54:57-04

PHOENIX — The largest high school district in Arizona says it will hold graduation ceremonies on campuses in June or July, if social distancing guidelines are lifted. The commitment from Phoenix Union comes as students are pushing back against planned virtual, or drive-through options, still scheduled for this month.

"It ruined prom, my senior activities, graduation, so it's just been a lot emotionally," said Alexandra Delgado, a senior at Maryvale High School.

Like many seniors, Delgado is still struggling to accept that her time at Maryvale High School will end like this.

"You roll up, they give you your diploma and you just drive away," Delgado said.

Phoenix Union is one of the largest high school districts in the country. It decided drive-through graduations are the best and safest option. Students took to social media expressing their disappointment and frustration. They even started a petition, willing to wait weeks or even months for a more traditional ceremony.

"We worked so hard, we've been through our own challenges ourselves, just to drive up and get our diploma like it's McDonalds," said Delgado. "We deserve to walk that stage because we've all worked hard for it."

They are not the only ones pushing back. Students at Buena High School in Sierra Vista are also circulating a petition to postpone their drive-through graduation. This, as districts like Peoria, Dysart, Deer Valley and Tolleson Union High School announced plans for ceremonies at State Farm Stadium in June and July. On May 5, Chandler Unified School District said it's "developing a plan" to hold in-person ceremonies at each of its high schools, citing Governor Doug Ducey's accelerated plans to re-open the state.

Just hours after ABC15 reached out to the Phoenix Union High School District about student concerns, the superintendent announced publicly for the first time that an in-person celebration could still happen, as part of a four-part graduation plan crafted with guidance from the Class of 2020.

"As much as the students and we, the staff, would love to have traditional, live graduation ceremonies this month, we know that is not possible," said Dr. Chad Gestson. "We are so proud of our seniors, the class of 2020, who have persevered through so much over the last couple of months and are committed to giving our kids an amazing graduation experience, not just in May, but hopefully later in the summer in June or July."