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Lee County students, parents react to canceled in-person graduations

Posted at 6:54 PM, Jul 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 18:54:50-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Lee County School District has announced the cancellation of in-person graduations, following the increase of Coronavirus cases in Southwest Florida.

In a statement Wednesday, the district said, "this was an incredibly hard decision, but following the sharp rise in covid-19 cases in our community and the health risk associated with large events, we believe this is in the best interest of our graduates and families."

Graduating seniors took part in virtual graduations in June and were set to walk across the stage this month.

Reece Hall, a 2020 graduate from Fort Myers High School, says the news was disappointing.

"I think a lot of us were still holding on to hope that we would at least have something," said Reece.

Like many seniors, Reece hall always dreamed of what her senior year would be like — never expecting a virus would alter those dreams.

"So many other things got canceled where I think we were all holding on to that idea of having one last get together," said Reece.

In April, the Schools District of Lee County announced it would hold both virtual and in-person gradations, and later released the dates for the ceremonies.

"It was like 'oh finally some evidence that they are going to do this' and then three days later they kind of just said never mind," said Reece.

The district says the decision was made with the Florida Department of Health-Lee County and Hertz Arena.

Reece says she understands why the indoor in-person graduations had to be canceled.

"I personally don't know if I would be comfortable being indoors with that many people," said Reece.

The district says it is working on developing alternative ways to celebrate the graduates, such as a drive-thru ceremony at each high school where the Class of 2020 can wear their cap and gown and pick up their diplomas.

"It's devastating, for all of us, for 12 years we tell our kids this is what they look forward to, to go to senior prom, to walk across the stage," said Sabrina Schultz, parent of a 2020 graduate from Mariner High School.

Like Reece, Schultz says she hopes the district will take into consideration input from students and parents.

"Do it on the football field, in the open, masks required, limit it to parents only," said Schultz.

The Cape Coral Rotary Foundation, who is sponsoring community proms for multiple Cape Coral and Fort Myers High Schools, says those events are still taking place, but they are monitoring the situation.