Graduation Update 5/18/2020

Fort Stockton Independent School District

Hello, Fort Stockton Family!


We are in May and who would have ever guessed how different education would be from what we know. In these challenging times, our schools made sure that every student would have the same equitable opportunity for learning, whether through electronic learning, paper packets, or both. Our astounding teachers and staff continue to provide the tools, resources, and meals for our students, just as if our students were physically in our school buildings.


We want to thank our parents. Our parents have gone above and beyond in a short amount of time to do extraordinary work, ensuring that their children are afforded the best opportunities for learning, nutrition, safety, and a sense of connection. We know our parents, grandparents, and family members have all had to step up to help our children learn at home, and we wholeheartedly thank you for all that you do, especially your patience for your children and yourself.


To our seniors and senior parents, we know that this is not how any of us envisioned the Fort Stockton High School Class of 2020 final year at Fort Stockton High School. We assure you that within the confines of what schools are allowed to do for graduation, we will be doing the best to make the graduating ceremony memorable. We are all in this together, and we are proud of you. Fort Stockton ISD appreciates your patience as we work through all the details of what we can accomplish for the end of year activities ending with graduation.


Lastly, we want to share five documents from the Texas Education Agency to give a better understanding of what we are working through to ensure a safe and memorable graduation. There is much to go over, and being transparent helps all of us get through these challenging times. Fort Stockton Independent School District is committed to the health, safety, and well-being of our students and staff. We will inform our students, parents, and staff with more information in the coming week that will hopefully answer all the questions our community is asking of us.


Take a deep breath, enjoy your family, be kind to one another, and live for dear ole Stockton...she lives for you.


Sincerely,

Fort Stockton ISD


P.S. Happy Mother's Day to all our wonderful mothers, grandmothers, and anyone that has provided the love, especially when we need it the most.


New documents linked below:

The state of Texas "Open Texas" Website

The State of Texas Guidance for Graduation Ceremonies

The State of Texas Guidance for 2020 Seniors

Minimum Standard Health Protocols on Visits to Schools

State of Texas Minimum Standard Health Protocols

Texas Governor’s Report to Open Texas

State of Texas "Open Texas" Website

The Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas will safely and strategically restart and revitalize all aspects of the Lone Star State—work, school, entertainment, and culture.

May 8, 2020: New Information from the Texas Education Agency

The State of Texas Guidance for Graduation Ceremonies

The following requirements apply to graduation and end-of-year promotion ceremonies to be conducted in May 2020 and thereafter. As the public health situation changes, these guidelines may be modified.

The State of Texas Guidance for 2020 Seniors

More information from the Texas Education Agency (May 6, 2020) about graduation starting on pages 8-10 answering a few more questions.

Minimum Standard Health Protocols on Visits to Schools

This link provides a document from the Texas Education Agency providing information about Minimum Standard Health Protocols on Visits to Schools During Campus Closures

State of Texas Minimum Standard Health Protocols

This document provides the minimum recommended health protocols for all individuals. Individuals are encouraged to adopt additional protocols consistent with their specific needs and circumstances to help protect the health and safety of all Texans.

Texas Governor’s Report to Open Texas

This detailed report, available on the strike force website, helps Texans understand phase one by outlining the new protocols, guidance, and recommendations.

Fort Stockton ISD Texas Education Agency Information, May 5th 2020

Information from May 5th, 2020.

Dear Students, Parents, and Staff,


Fort Stockton Independent School District (FSISD) has received information from the State of Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency.


We appreciate our students, parents, and community as we work through the guidelines we received this late afternoon in the best interest of providing a graduation ceremony while being safe in controlling the spread of COVID-19. FSISD will also work with legal counsel, as recommended by the Texas Education Agency, in making the best decision for our students, staff, parents, and our community.


We apologize for the lengthy document, and FSISD wants to be as transparent as possible with the information given to schools about graduation from the State of Texas.


Please remember the safety of our students and staff is of the utmost importance as we work to provide a graduation ceremony for our graduating class of 2020. We will soon share with our community any new information and decisions as we get closer to the end of our school year.


Sincerely,

Fort Stockton ISD

May 5th, 2020: Guidance for Graduation and End-of-Year Ceremonies During the COVID-19

The following requirements apply to graduation and end-of-year promotion ceremonies to be conducted in May 2020 and thereafter.


As the public health situation changes, these guidelines may be modified.


With the issuance of Executive Order No. GA-21, issued on May 5, 2020, Texas continues the reopening of services in response to the COVID-19 disaster. While schools remain closed to normal in-classroom attendance for instruction, schools seek to fulfill the traditional functions of providing graduation and end-of-year promotion ceremonies. In accordance with Executive Order GA 21, the Texas Education Agency provides the following guidance for graduation and end-of-year promotion ceremonies. This guidance will be updated as more information about COVID-19 spread in Texas becomes available and is subject to change.


In order for a school system to determine if a planned graduation or end-of-year promotion ceremony is permissible under Governor Abbott’s current COVID-19 disaster orders, as well as any local orders not in conflict with Governor Abbott’s orders, a school system is advised to first consult with its legal counsel regarding such planned activities. Assuming its legal counsel considers the planned activities permissible, the school system could then seek written approval from applicable local jurisdictions tasked with enforcement of COVID-19-related gubernatorial or local orders to engage in the planned graduation or end-of-year promotion ceremony.


Participation by a student or family member in a ceremony is voluntary and may not be required or compelled by the school.


In-person indoor ceremonies are not yet permitted under current executive orders related to public health.


4 types of ceremonies are allowed:

1. Completely virtual

2. Hybrid ceremonies

3. Vehicle ceremonies

4. Outdoor in-person ceremonies





1. Completely virtual ceremonies are approved to take place at any time.




2. Hybrid ceremonies (compilation video of students filmed individually or in small groups) are permitted to take place effective May 15 under the following conditions:

  • School employees, students, and parents must comply with the guidance on Minimum Standard Health Protocols on Visits to Schools During Campus Closures except as authorized by this guidance.
  • Schools using non-school facilities to perform graduation or end-of-year promotion ceremonies must ensure compliance as if the non-school facility were a school and as authorized by this guidance.
  • Prior to participating, individuals must be screened (via questioning) by school system employees for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19:
  1. Cough
  2. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  3. Chills
  4. Repeated shaking with chills
  5. Muscle pain
  6. Headache
  7. Sore throat
  8. Loss of taste or smell
  9. Diarrhea
  10. Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
  11. Known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19 if exposure to the active confirmed case occurred within the last 14 days


Those found with any of these signs or symptoms must be excluded from the activity.


The total number of individuals within close proximity during video filming/photos must not exceed five.

  • No rehearsals will be permitted.
  • Hand sanitizer or hand washing stations must be available at entrances to the building where filming occurs.
  • Consistent with the actions taken by many institutions across the state, consider having all employees, students, or other visitors wear cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth) while inside any facilities, or if they will come within 6 feet of another person who is not a member of that person’s household, except when photos are taken. If available, they should consider wearing non-medical grade face masks.
  • Diplomas or other documents may not be handed from person to person unless gloves and mask are worn at all times.
  • Care should be taken and effort must be made to mitigate virus exposure when participants come into contact with documents and other objects such as diplomas and awards.
  • Bathrooms, doorknobs, and other commonly touched surfaces must be frequently cleaned and sanitized.
  • A robust communication plan must be in place to address steps to be taken before, during, and after the ceremony to ensure that participants are aware of safety protocols at the ceremony and explicit instructions to graduates not to congregate outside of school sponsored ceremonies or events.
  • If students’ family members are to be allowed to observe or participate in a hybrid ceremony, school officials should communicate with students’ families prior to the ceremony to determine how many family members will be attending so they can plan appropriately to implement social distancing measures, logistics, and other safety measures.





3. Vehicle ceremonies where all activities are outdoors are permitted to take place effective May 15 under the following conditions:

  • Students and parents (or legal guardians) must comply with the guidance on Student Non-Instructional Visits except as authorized by this guidance.
  • Schools using non-school facilities to perform graduation ceremonies must ensure compliance as if the non-school facility were a school and as authorized by this guidance.
  • Prior to attending the ceremony, participating students and attending family members must be screened (via questioning) by school system employees for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19
  1. Cough
  2. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  3. Chills
  4. Repeated shaking with chills
  5. Muscle pain
  6. Headache
  7. Sore throat
  8. Loss of taste or smell
  9. Diarrhea
  10. Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
  11. Known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19 if exposure to the active confirmed case occurred within the last 14 days

Those found with any of these signs or symptoms must be excluded from the activity.

  • Members of the same household (five individuals or fewer, excluding the graduate) may be present in a vehicle with the graduate.
  • School officials should communicate with students’ families prior to the ceremony to determine how many family members will be attending so they can plan appropriately to implement social distancing measures, logistics, and other safety measures.
  • Graduates or promoting students may only be brought together for one event per class or breakout group. No rehearsals will be permitted.
  • Diplomas or other documents may not be handed from person to person unless gloves are worn by those distributing diplomas or other documents to students.
  • Consistent with the actions taken by many institutions across the state, consider having all participants wear cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth) if they will come within 6 feet of another person who is not a member of that person’s household, except when photos are taken. If available, they should consider wearing non-medical grade face masks.
  • Care should be taken and effort must be made to mitigate virus exposure when participants come into contact with documents and other objects such as diplomas and awards.
  • School employees at the ceremony must be limited to the minimum number needed to logistically support the ceremony.
  • A robust communication plan must be in place to address steps to be taken before, during, and after the ceremony to ensure that participants are aware of safety protocols at the ceremony and explicit instructions to graduates or promoting students not to congregate outside of school-sponsored ceremonies or events.




4. Outdoor in-person ceremonies are currently permitted for counties as follows:

Between May 15 and May 31, 2020, an outdoor ceremony may take place in a rural county that has an attestation as described in the “Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas” (April 27, 2020) that remains in effect 7 days prior to the ceremony.


An outdoor ceremony may take place in any county on or after June 1.


Be advised, this permission is subject to change as underlying public health conditions change.


Outdoor ceremonies must meet the following requirements:

  • School systems must cap the number of total participants (inclusive of students, families, and staff) to a level that can be managed in the outdoor venue to maximize social distancing, both during the event and during entry and exit.
  • School employees and school facilities must comply with the guidance for School Employees in School Facilities except as authorized by this guidance.
  • Students and parents (or legal guardians) must comply with the guidance on Student Non-Instructional Visits except as authorized by this guidance.
  • Schools using non-school facilities to perform graduation or end-of-year promotion ceremonies must ensure compliance as if the non-school facility were a school and as authorized by this guidance.
  • Prior to attending the ceremony, participating students and attending family members must be screened (via questioning) by school system employees for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19:
  1. Cough
  2. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  3. Chills
  4. Repeated shaking with chills
  5. Muscle pain
  6. Headache
  7. Sore throat
  8. Loss of taste or smell
  9. Diarrhea
  10. Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
  11. Known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19 if exposure to the active confirmed case occurred within the last 14 days

Those found with any of these signs or symptoms must be excluded from the activity.

  • Graduates or promoting students may only be brought together for one event per class or breakout group. No rehearsals will be permitted.
  • Keep 6 feet or more of spacing between all participants, except that members of the same household (five individuals or fewer, excluding the graduate if seated with the household) may be allowed to sit together in the audience but must be at least 6 feet away from any other family group at all times.
  • Hand sanitizer or hand washing stations must be available at all venue entrances.
  • School employees at the ceremony must be limited to the minimum number needed to logistically support the ceremony.
  • Diplomas or other documents may not be handed from person to person unless gloves are worn by those distributing diplomas or other documents to students.
  • Consistent with the actions taken by many institutions across the state, consider having all employees, students, or other visitors wear cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth) while inside any facilities, or if they will come within 6 feet of another person who is not a member of that person’s household, except when photos are taken. If available, they should consider wearing non-medical grade face masks.
  • Care should be taken and effort must be made to mitigate virus exposure when participants come into contact with documents and other objects such as diplomas and awards.
  • School employees must be stationed appropriately to ensure compliance with all requirements and to limit congregation.
  • A robust communication plan must be in place to address steps to be taken before, during, and after the ceremony to ensure that participants are aware of safety protocols at the ceremony and explicit instructions to graduates or promoting students not to congregate outside of school sponsored ceremonies or events.
  • School officials should communicate with students’ families prior to the ceremony to determine how many family members will be attending so they can plan appropriately to implement social distancing measures, logistics, and other safety measures.
  • Assigned seating for members of the audience should be considered to more efficiently ensure separation between household groups.
  • Specific plans should be developed for arrivals and departures to ensure appropriate social distancing.

May 5, 2020: More Information provided by the Texas Education Agency

Question 1

Are we able to conduct in-person, indoor ceremonies?


Question 2

Are we able to conduct in-person, outdoor ceremonies?


Question 3

Are we able to conduct a graduation ceremony during which graduates and their families participate from their vehicles?


Question 4

Are we able to compile a video of students filmed individually or in small groups to create a virtual graduation ceremony?


Question 5

How do we obtain approval to conduct a completely virtual graduation ceremony?








Question 1

Are we able to conduct in-person, indoor ceremonies?

No. In-person indoor ceremonies are not yet permitted under current executive orders related to public health.




Question 2

Are we able to conduct in-person, outdoor ceremonies?

An outdoor ceremony may take place in any county on or after June 1.


Be advised, the executive order guidance is subject to change as underlying public health conditions change.


Additionally, between May 15 and May 31, 2020, an outdoor ceremony will be permitted in a rural county that has an attestation as described in the “Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas” (April 27, 2020) that remains in effect 7 days prior to the ceremony.


See the Executive Order No. GA-21 for specifics requirements.


Ideas from Texas school districts for outdoor ceremonies that comply with executive orders and guidelines include the following:


  • Identification of the largest outdoor venue in the area to allow for maximum spacing among participants
  • Seating of graduates of sufficient distance from one another on the football field with limited guests in the bleachers or not guests at all
  • Availability of a livestream or televised broadcast of ceremony to limit participant attendance and for those unable to attend.
  • Providing non-medical grade face masks printed with the school name or logo to graduates
  • Assigning seating and having graduates escort their families to the assigned location
  • Spacing ceremonies apart by several hours to allow time for cleaning and sanitizing
  • Predesignating/assigning parking so that arrivals and departures are carefully coordinated
  • Staggering of release of students and guests to limit congregating after the ceremony




Question 3

Are we able to conduct a graduation ceremony during which graduates and their families participate from their vehicles?

A vehicle ceremony that complies with relevant executive orders and guidelines is approved and may proceed effective May 15 in accordance with local plans.


See the Executive Order No. GA-21 for specifics requirements.


Please note, though, that determining whether specific arrangements made in a hybrid ceremony are permissible under Governor Abbott’s current COVID-19 disaster orders, as well as any local orders not in conflict with Governor Abbott’s orders, a school system is advised to first consult with its legal counsel regarding such planned activities. Assuming its legal counsel considers the planned activities for a vehicle ceremony permissible, the school system could then seek written approval from applicable local jurisdictions tasked with enforcement of COVID-19-related gubernatorial or local orders to engage in the planned vehicle graduation ceremony.




Ideas for Texas school districts for vehicle ceremonies include the following:

Participants arrive at a designated venue (one vehicle with the graduate and family members from the same household) and remain in their vehicles.



When called


  • the family drives to a stage, the graduate exits the vehicle, and walks across the stage to receive a diploma from an administrator or dignitary wearing gloves (or picks the diploma up from a table or,
  • the family drives to a designated location where an administrator or dignitary wearing gloves hands the graduate the diploma through an open window


Participants arrive at a designated venue (one vehicle with the graduate and family members from the same household) and remain in their vehicles to view previously recorded speeches shown on a screen with audio provided through loud speakers or broadcast on a local radio station followed by each graduate’s name being called.






Question 4

Are we able to compile a video of students filmed individually or in small groups to create a virtual graduation ceremony?

A hybrid ceremony (compilation video of students filmed individually or in small groups) that complies with relevant executive orders and guidelines is approved and may proceed effective May 15 in accordance with local plans.


See the Executive Order No. GA-21 for specifics requirements.


Please note, though, that determining whether specific arrangements made in a hybrid ceremony are permissible under Governor Abbott’s current COVID-19 disaster orders, as well as any local orders not in conflict with Governor Abbott’s orders, a school system is advised to first consult with its legal counsel regarding such planned activities. Assuming its legal counsel considers the planned activities for a hybrid ceremony permissible, the school system could then seek written approval from applicable local jurisdictions tasked with enforcement of COVID-19-related gubernatorial or local orders to engage in the planned hybrid graduation ceremony.


Ideas from Texas school districts for hybrid ceremonies include the following:


  • Students brought into school, another indoor venue, or an outdoor venue individually or in small groups, with or without family members, to be filmed and to have photos taken in caps and gowns walking across the stage to receive their diplomas
  • Inclusion of pre-recorded speeches from commencement speakers, students, and faculty members uploaded into a clickable graduation program
  • Individual student videos uploaded and linked to each student’s name in a clickable graduation program
  • Availability of a compiled video of the ceremony to be viewed in its entirety online or on a district station on a designated day and time or in portions at an individual’s leisure




Question 5

How do we obtain approval to conduct a completely virtual graduation ceremony?


Graduation ceremonies that will be completely virtual are approved and may proceed in accordance with local plans.



A student may participate in a virtual graduation ceremony upon certification that the student has satisfied all graduation requirements. No action is required on the part of school districts to obtain approval for a virtual ceremony.


Ideas from Texas school districts for virtual ceremonies include the following:


  • Real-time or pre-recorded interactive webinar events in which individuals are recognized while students, faculty, and friends join on their computers using audio and webcam to be part of the ceremony
  • District- or campus-developed virtual ceremonies that include pre-recorded speeches from commencement speakers, students, and faculty members
  • Vendor-produced ceremonies featuring premade content and templates, the ability to customize content, a choice of live or prerecorded speeches and award presentations, and an all-in-one platform to create a graduation ceremony
  • To increase live interaction, webinar graduation ceremonies that incorporate social media elements (similar to a Twitter feed) to allow students to post pictures, short videos, and messages during the ceremony
  • Live webinars that feature avatars in a gaming environment (sometimes referred to as a “Second Life” commencement ceremony approach) or in a virtual environment resembling a ceremony hall
  • Virtual ceremonies that can be accessed via livestream or television broadcast