LEE COUNTY, Fla. — The show must go on. Despite a spike in coronavirus cases statewide, Lee County Schools has decided to keep plans for in-person graduation next month, and hold them at just one venue instead of two.
Next month graduating seniors officially walk across the stage at Hertz Arena and collect their diplomas. This time without the large entourage of speakers onstage. District spokesperson Rob Spicker says speakers will be seated in the front row and only the corresponding principal will pass out diplomas while wearing a mask.
“There’s not going to be handshakes. You can do an elbow or a fist bump perhaps, but we’re not going to shake hands on the stage. Just to make sure that we’re not transmitting or sharing any potential germs at that point,” said Spicker.
Before anyone can step foot inside the arena, greeters will ask questions like have they had a fever, traveled to high risk areas or been close to any who’s tested positive for COVID-19.
“To make sure that you haven’t had contact, or been in contact with somebody that has the coronavirus. So, that you’re not bringing it into the facility,” said Spicker.
Graduations will be held during the weekends of July 17th and July 24th, with two ceremonies planned each day, with the exception of island coast high school Sudnay July 26th.
Spicker says the district decided to have all ceremonies at Hertz rather than two venues like originally planned because there’s plenty of space and they saved $40,000. He says graduates will sit six feet apart, and they’re only expecting 2,000 people at most for each ceremony, which allows for adequate social distancing considering hertz can hold up to about 8 thousand people at a time.
He adds Hertz is prepared for the fast turn around too.
“In between each ceremony, Hertz will have its custodial staff come out and sanitize the area where everybody was,” said Spicker.
Flowers and gifts are not allowed inside the ceremony. As a way to prevent large crowds, graduates will have to meet their guests at the car instead of the front of the arena.
Spicker says the district will pivot if necessary.
“If anything changes drastically between now and graduation, and we need to make adjustments, we will,” he said. “These ceremonies are important to us and to our families, but the health and safety of everyone is more important.”
Each graduate will only get two guest tickets, but Spicker says don’t worry. You can still watch your graduate cross the stage live online.