Parents frustrated with another 'drive-in' graduation plan at ER | WHEC.com

Parents frustrated with another 'drive-in' graduation plan at ER

Berkeley Brean
Created: June 08, 2021 07:44 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — High school graduations start in about two weeks. Let's think about these young men and women. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted their lives every day since they were juniors, and now a group of mothers is upset that COVID-19 is affecting their graduation plan.

They're upset because they look at all the other schools in Monroe County and see in-person graduation at school stadiums, RIT, or Frontier Field. Then they look at their plan in East Rochester, and it looks like 2020. 

I met the mothers at the gazebo at Edmond Lyon Park in East Rochester. 

"Oh, that's a great picture of him," Kris Weltman said. "That's his senior picture?"

They shared pictures of their high school graduates. 

Elizabeth Jones' grandson, Seth Grant, is going into the Navy. Jen Feser's boys, Chuck and Russell, are going to FLCC. Weltman's son, Andrew, is on his way to the University of Dayton. 

But this month, their East Rochester High School graduation is a drive-in event with families in their cars. 

"Watching graduation from a car just seems sad to me," Jones said. 

"When you look at what other districts are doing right now, they're all doing an outdoor event, whether it's at their own schools, RIT, or another event center," Feser said. "So, we want the kids to have the same opportunity."

We checked with every school district in Monroe County and Victor. Every district is offering some kind of outdoor, in-person graduation with 5 to 10 tickets per student. Many require proof of vaccination or negative tests. 

Here are some examples: 

BRIGHTON

  • June 22 at 7 p.m.
  • Turf field at BHS
  • Grad class: 282
  • Individual ceremonies for students unable to attend a larger ceremony
  • Student + 6 tickets
  • Student and guest must have negative COVID test within 72 hours
  • OR proof of vaccination
  • OR recovery from COVID in last 3 months

FAIRPORT

  • June 27 at Frontier Field
  • Grad class: 438
  • Grad + 7 tickets
  • Graduates must show proof of vaccination or negative COVID test
  • Guests do not need proof but are required to wear masks.

WHEATLAND-CHILI

  • June 26 at 11 a.m.
  • School stadium
  • Grad class: 47
  • 4 guests per student

VICTOR

  • June 13 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Frontier Field
  • Grad class: 339

HONEOYE FALLS-LIMA

Two graduations:

1) Personal graduation

  • June 24
  • Grads walk across the stage in HS auditorium
  • Unlimited family members can attend (within reason)
  • Photos
  • Similar to 2020 graduation ceremony

2) Outdoor graduation

  • June 26 at 2 p.m.
  • Student + 3 guests
  • Grad class: 190

Weltman says they've tried to talk to the ER administration. 

Brean: "What do they say to you?"
Weltman:  "I mean they really haven't answered, and that's part of the frustration."

The school district sent me the talking points it shared with parents. Part of it says, "Having cars at the ceremony provides the opportunity to maximize the allowable crowd size, given the guidance in place, while avoiding the need to require proof of vaccination or negative COVID test results."

The school district also says the vaccination rate in East Rochester is a problem. According to the Finger Lakes Vaccine Hub, only 52% of people have at least one shot in the ER zip code. That's the third-lowest in suburban Monroe County and 20% lower than all the surrounding school districts. 

A petition is going around to change the graduation plan at East Rochester. The grad class is 77 students, the second smallest in the county. 

"I think it's really important for these kids to go out with some sort of normalcy, and they want to celebrate their years in East Rochester the way they deserve," Weltman said. 

Graduation at East Rochester is June 26. The plan is to get that petition to the school administration this week. 

We asked the parents: when you talk about change, what do you mean? 

They answer something that resembles traditional graduation and not what happened last year, which was a drive-in. The district says having it at the school stadium would mean mandatory proof of vaccination or negative test. 

But that's what Brighton is doing with three times as many students. 

Here are more high school graduation plans:

BROCKPORT

  • June 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Frontier Field
  • Each senior can bring up to 9 guests

CHURCHVILLE-CHILI

  • June 26 at 7 p.m. at RIT
  • Four guests per grad
  • Must provide proof of vaccine or negative test
  • Assigned seating

EAST IRONDEQUOIT

  • June 26 (rain date is June 27) at 9:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. at Eastridge Stadium
  • There will be two graduation ceremonies. Half of the graduating class will be part of each ceremony – split alphabetically by their last names. The breakdown will be in the information sent to senior households next week. Each graduate will have three guests who will enter assigned gates upon arrival and sit together as a group in the stadium. Seating in the stadium will be marked so families will be separated at least six feet from other families.  Each guest will supply contact information and answer COVID health questions upon entry. No extra "tickets" will be given but both ceremonies will be live-streamed so that friends and family can watch. The NYS Health Department requires that everyone be masked while on campus – even with outdoor events. If light rain expected, the ceremony will go on, so bring an umbrella. If a downpour or lightning is predicted on June 26, we will postpone the ceremonies until June 27 at the same times. If a downpour or lightning is predicted for June 27, the two ceremonies will take place in Eastridge's auditorium with only graduates present (no guests), but it would be live streamed. The NYS Health Department allows for socially distanced graduation and other end of year school ceremonies to have up to 500 people if the event is held outside (250 if inside), without checking for vaccinations or negative COVID tests. If we held a larger ceremony, every person at the event would need to produce a verified vaccination or negative COVID test, as per NYS. We know that some of our graduates would not be able to participate in their own graduations if we went with the larger ceremony method and we want to be sure that each member of the Class of 2021 can "walk the stage." Students who have not accrued the required credits for graduation and need to finish this summer will be able to participate in a separate small ceremony that will be held in August, assuming they successfully complete the requirements in summer school. They will not be able to take part in the June ceremonies, though.

GATES CHILI

  • June 23 at 7 p.m. at GCHS Stadium 
  • Waiting on more information 

GREECE

  • Saturday, June 12 - 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Monday, June 14 - 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, June 15 - 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, June 16 - 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 17 - Noon to 8:30 p.m.
  • Friday, June 18 - Noon to 8:30 p.m.
  • Graduations are held in the auditorium at Athena High School called the Greece Central Performing Arts Center
  • Nine students graduate at a time
  • Each student can bring up to nine guests.
  • Families pick time slots within the following windows, which were divided up amongst the four high schools. 

HILTON

  • June 23 at Frontier Field
  • 329 graduates
  • Each graduate receives 10 tickets for guests

PENFIELD

  • June 21 (rain date is June 29) at 7:30 p.m. at Frontier Field

PITTSFORD

  • June 19 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Specifics about COVID-19 protocols are still being finalized


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