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:
1) Personal graduation
2) Outdoor graduation
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:
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