KILLEEN, Texas – Killeen ISD Superintendent Dr. John Craft reiterated the district’s plans Tuesday to hold in-person graduation ceremonies at the Bell County Expo on July 20 and 21, much to the ire of seniors and parents alike.
“We’re looking again to hold a more traditional graduation ceremony July 20 and 21, as we have in the past,” Craft said. “Families, friends, family members, can all come and enjoy and celebrate with their graduates.”
Denise Weston, whose daughter is a senior at Ellison High School, says she thinks the district is stringing the students along and setting their expectations too high.
“It feels like a slap in the face to the people in Killeen,” Weston said of the announcement. “That’s how I took it.”
The school district has a backup plan of a virtual graduation, where students and families can stream the ceremony to hear their names called, and would get their diplomas in the mail.
Some parents, like Alexia Russey, whose daughter is a senior at Harker Heights High School, aren’t putting too much hope into the district’s Bell County Expo plans.
“It’s just insane, I don’t think we’re gonna be anywhere close to a place in two months to have a traditional, indoor ceremony where we can have thousands of people in one closed space. It’s not going to happen,” Russey said. “Why do you even waste your time and manpower to plan something that’s not going to happen?”
Instead, she is calling for a smaller, more intimate ceremony with a limited attendance – so they can still hold a traditional ceremony and have it done sooner.
“We’re not asking for fireworks and parades and everything else like every other district is doing,” Russey said. “We are just wanting a small portion of this – just let them walk.”
Russey’s daughter, Elena, has been to eight different schools – but has found a home at Harker Heights. She has a vested interest in a traditional ceremony sooner so her dad, who is deployed, will be able to see her walk the stage.
She, too, isn’t getting her hopes up.
“It’s like they’re building our hopes up for something that’s gonna happen. Just for all of our hopes to be crushed at the end. That it’s not really gonna happen,” Elena Russey said. “That’s why I think a lot of people don’t even want to believe what they’re saying at this point, because it’s like they’re saying we’re gonna have a graduation, and in reality, a lot of us feel like we know we’re not gonna have an actual, traditional one.”
Parents like Weston have had to have some tough conversations with their seniors about their graduation reality. She has also vowed to give her daughter the celebration she feels she deserves.
“Whether or not the school district celebrates you, we will celebrate you and make sure that accomplishment is celebrated the right way,” Weston said.
The Temple, Belton and Copperas Cove School Districts have announced they will have in-person graduations within the next month.