As a foreward to this post, everything contained within is based on opinion and observation. I am not affiliated with any news or media organization, nor do I represent the views of any past, current, or future employers. This is simply an article based on my observations and experiences at a local high school graduation during the Covid-19 pandemic. I will also not be adhering to AP Style to its fullest as I do not have the most recent book or online subscription for its service. This article is not meant to be objective. Instead, it is based on my personal views and observations.
Waukesha South High School held their graduation for high school seniors this morning with no inclusion of a mask mandate, social distancing, or proper precautions as laid out by the CDC.
A letter sent out by the school district states, “An update . . . is based on guidance from the CDC and the Waukesha County Health Department, we are strongly recommending you wear a face covering as you enter, sit and exit our stadiums for the graduation ceremony.”
Sitting outside the fences for the graduation, I noticed they were not offering masks to those that entered, nor were they requiring them. Many people entered and sat without a mask.
The letter goes on to say, “Our priority is the health and safety of all in attendance and we appreciate your cooperation.”
While the school district might care for the health of its students and parents, that care is limited. The students sat social distanced from one another while speeches were made. However, those students all stood outside the football stadium in condensed groups before walking to their seats. The students were also not required to wear masks. Very few of them did.
In my eyes, this serves as nothing more than a public relations or media friendly moment. Pictures taken will show that the students all social distanced as speeches were given. You will likely find no pictures containing their condensed waiting before the ceremony or how they stood in line right behind each other while waiting to get their diploma.
Pictures will show a copy of the letter where they recommend everybody wears a mask. But it is unlikely pictures of the dense groups of people sitting in the bleachers without masks or social distancing will be seen.
The ceremony was also a full-length graduation ceremony. It consisted of speeches given by administrators, teachers and students. It lasted more than an hour when all of that could have been digitally. Other schools around the nation did full virtual graduations, but our conservative city and state opted for in-person formalities.
We live in a tumultuous time of varied opinions on mask mandates and how best to contain and prevent the spread of Covid-19. Professional sports have been canceled or postponed, schools were closed, businesses shut down and the world was put at a standstill. Yet we still persisted and continued to try and live our lives to the best and fullest.
Right now, schools across the country are wrestling with reopening. School boards, local governments and state health departments are postulating on a wide array of ideas and implementations for the upcoming school year. As far as I know, no consensus has been reached across the entirety of the U.S.
With the uncertainty of our education system’s future, we likely saw a small glimpse of what is in store for students and faculty in the upcoming school year. Students, teachers, administrators, helpers, parents, onlookers and even the police; none were required to wear masks. Yes, it was held outside where the risk is far lower. But the problem remains of how it was implemented and maintained.
I will not be surprised if we see a small surge of positive tests for Covid-19 after the hundreds of people gathered at the football stadium with little to no social distancing or masks.
Maybe it’s the skeptic and realist in me, but I fail to see how the health and safety of the students and parents is outweighed by the need to walk across a stage and physically grab a diploma.