Durango High School’s plan for an in-person commencement for the Class of 2020 in spring or summer did not meet statewide public health orders, according to a review by San Juan Basin Public Health.
DHS Principal Jon Hoerl shared a message with seniors saying the district planned to resubmit an updated plan.
Hoerl said the district still wants to hold ceremonies June 26-27, July 10-11 or Aug. 7-8.
The district hopes to hold five ceremonies at DHS Stadium with 50 students and small audiences at each ceremony to make the ceremony more palatable to health officials during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“SJBPH simply indicated they would like to wait until after June 1 as the governor is expected to modify the order of gatherings over 10,” said Dan Snowberger in an email to The Durango Herald.
The failure to come up with a commencement plan has frustrated parents, including Carolyn Wise.
“You know, I’ve spoken to a couple parents, and I think there’s frustration there hasn’t been much outreach other than, you know, the constant emails,” she said.
She said she reached out Wednesday to SJBPH for an update about the commencement plan, and she was confused after being told that the district had not submitted a formal plan, and in any case, the SJBPH would not play any role in determining how the graduation ceremony would be conducted.
Parents should have more input in formulating 9-R’s plans for graduation ceremonies, she said.
She said graduating seniors are going to be leaving to join the military or go to college.
The further you put it off, the fewer kids are going to be here,” she said.
Snowberger said DHS’s size, with more than 250 graduates, complicates logistics and planning.
“We believe the plan involving five ceremonies of 50 students each is solid,” he said.
Snowberger said that after June 1, bans on gatherings of 10 or more people might be lifted, and at that time the district would work with the health department to further modify plans so that it can hold graduation ceremonies at one of the three scheduled blocks.
Wise questioned the consistency in applying a rule limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people.
“Groups of 10 or more people happen every Saturday at the Farmers Market. Groups of 10 get together every day at Walmart and Home Depot. And we’re told in Durango we won’t even allow a parade,” she said. “We’d like to have some kind of get-together, something to celebrate our children.”
Efforts to reach SJBPH on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Snowberger said a graduation committee at DHS traditionally has led planning for commencement, and the committee surveys seniors and takes the lead from students’ responses. He said he hopes students will discuss graduation plans with their parents.
“Graduation is about our students’ milestone, and while I would hope that there is communication between parent and their child as they give input to these surveys, I’m saddened that didn’t occur in this case. This is an important time in the life of students, and I support their desire to mark it with an appropriate ceremony to honor their accomplishments,” he said.
Students have asked for an in-person ceremony.
“We are hopeful that we won’t have to wait until August – hence the proposal for late June or early July. If students wanted to do what we could now, we would support it. I do believe their voice is important as this is their milestone,” he said.
email@example.comAn earlier version of this story erred in saying San Juan Basin Public Health rejected Durango High School’s commencement plan. The health department does not approve or reject such plans; rather, it only reviews them and offers input.