WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — High school graduation ceremonies in Palm Beach County will not be held this year at the South Florida Fairgrounds, the school district announced Tuesday evening.
In a letter to students and parents, Palm Beach County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Fennoy said he had a "heavy heart" sharing the news.
Dr. Fennoy said that because of the state’s current "stay at home" order and federal health directives urging social distancing because of the coronavirus, he was forced to make a difficult decision.
A school district spokesperson said high school graduations themselves are not canceled, just the ceremonies at the South Florida Fairgrounds.
The spokesperson added that school officials are looking into the possibility of "other commencement opportunities."
In a letter to the parents of high school seniors, Dr. Fennoy wrote:
"I have not discounted exploring other options as we monitor the pandemic and its impact on Florida. Moving forward, the District will be communicating with your principal and your student government representatives regarding other viable opportunities to mark this great milestone in your life."
The superintendent said graduating students deserve to be celebrated," but "this is just not possible to safely accomplish in a public setting at this time."
The school district said they will mail diplomas to homes and urged students and parents to accept their appreciation and understanding during this time of uncertainty.
"Some of these kids have thrived, including my children. Have worked so hard to get a high GPA, to get a diploma, just to walk across that stage," said Rebecca Cruz, whose child is graduating from John I. Leonard High School. "It's rewarding. And in some way, it's closure to a chapter in your life that can't just be closed by a mailed diploma."
"I think the entire senior class, we are all willing to fight and do something," said Isabelle Eisenberg, a senior at Olympic Heights Community High School in Boca Raton.
Eisenberg said that when she learned about the cancelation, she and her friends jumped into action.
"Within two seconds, an entire group chat was formed and it was titled, Plan B Senior Ideas," said senior Shoshanna Halperin.
One social distancing option that seniors are exploring is a graduation car parade.
"My friend Alexa was like, we can decorate our cars based on what clubs were were in," said Eisenberg.
"We were all kind of brainstorming ideas of just doing speeches that they had and then self-record them," said senior Cameron Grippo.
Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis closed all K-12 public and private schools in Florida due to concerns over COVID-19.
Students across Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast have resumed their studies from home via digital teaching and learning.
Officials in Palm Beach County said all schools will be closed until further notice, while school closures in Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee counties will be extended until Friday, May 1.
Today I sent one of the most difficult emails of my life. A letter to the #ClassOf2020 informing them that due to #coronavirus graduation ceremonies at the @SoFlaFair are off. @pbcsd will explore other possible options. Meantime, please leave words of support for our seniors. pic.twitter.com/cnoVZxMJa8— Donald E. Fennoy II (@SuptFennoy) April 7, 2020