Despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gonzales Independent School District (GISD) students and faculty successfully held the 2020 graduation ceremony Friday evening at Apache Field.
A socially distant audience of 684 people were on hand to congratulate the 171 graduates of the Class of 2020, including Valedictorian Heath Henke and Salutatorian Madison Blundell.
GISD Public Relations Director Robin Trojcak said that the event, while limited in attendance by COVID-19 guidelines, still managed to bring people together. Trojcak said that above all, student safety is the school district’s top priority, and that safety guidelines required that guests were limited to four people per graduate to comply with the 25 percent field capacity. Students and family members were required to be from the same households to eliminate outside exposure.
“Each graduate and family in attendance were provided with tickets,” Trojcak said. “That ticket included a COVID-19 screening questionnaire.”
Trojcak said the questionnaire statements were required to be answered no more than one hour prior to attending the facility regarding possible symptoms. The screening form served to ensure all participants were healthy and safe to enter the stadium for the special event. The questionnaire/screening form information was taken from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), governor and Texas Education Agency (TEA) commissioner guidelines.
“All participants in attendance at the event were required to complete the form prior to entering the gates, including local and county law enforcement, local first administrators and school board members, GISD staff members including campus and district administrators, maintenance and technology teams,” she said.
Trojcak said that she and the district were happy with the audience turnout and offered advice on how students and families can help keep themselves and others safe during the pandemic.
“We follow the CDC, governor and Texas Education Agency commissioner’s guidelines such as practicing social distancing – at least six feet apart from others – washing hands more frequently and for at least 20 seconds,” she said. “We ask that people stay home and away from social gatherings as much as possible and respect each other’s space.”
Meanwhile, at the same time the Gonzales seniors were graduating, a similar ceremony was being held in Nixon for the 71 Nixon-Smiley graduates. That ceremony was held at Mustang Stadium under the same safety guidelines.
The Valedictorian was Addileidy Espino. The Salutatorian was Lilliana Jenks, and rounding out the top five graduates were, in order, Kaytlin Tschoepe, Jose Gonzalez, and Mayra Tovar.