BULLHEAD CITY — Colorado River Union High School District graduating seniors and their families will have the opportunity to participate in traditional ceremonies at Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse early next month.
CRUHSD board members voted unanimously Wednesday for the ceremonies to be traditional — or as traditional as possible under health guidelines in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of tickets for spectators will be sharply limited; only two tickets will be given to each graduate for guests.
Because the number of tickets will be so limited, the ceremony will be streamed live so additional family members can watch from elsewhere.
CRUHSD board members based their decision on an online survey taken by graduates and their families that overwhelmingly indicated a preference for traditional ceremonies to honor the Classes of 2020 at the fieldhouse.
Local resident Rowena Becker provided the district with a 26-page petition of signers in favor of a traditional ceremony, district staff reported.
CRUHSD Academy’s ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 4. River Valley High School’s ceremony is at 7 p.m. Friday, June 5. Mohave High School’s ceremony is at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 6.
Spacing the ceremonies will allow for ample time to clean the fieldhouse between each event so the venue will be ready for each group.
And having all ceremonies begin in the evening will allow family members to be available if they normally work during the day, said board member Lori Crampton.
Before the meeting, Bullhead City Police Chief Brian Williamson told the district he didn’t support having a large, traditional ceremony because it isn’t something recommended by state health officials at this time with ongoing concerns about community spread of COVID-19.
Williamson also said he couldn’t place personnel into that type of gathering because of the risk they would have of contracting the virus.
Last year’s MHS ceremony at the fieldhouse was invitation-only to watch from within the sports field, but the public was allowed to view the event from the stands. CRUHSD staff estimated that about 3,000 people were in the fieldhouse for that ceremony.
Crampton said she talked with Williamson later and that he seemed less apprehensive about the prospect of significantly downsized ceremonies.
Many schools across the country have cancelled ceremonies altogether or created alternative events to mark the educational milestone. Two students from RVHS, Mallory Moss and Hanna Gutowski, created drive-through ceremony ideas for the board to consider.
Moss said she would prefer something more traditional but thought a drive-through style event would be safer.
“This is a very strong second choice,” Moss, River Valley’s student body president, explained.
Monday evening, CRUHSD Supt. Todd Flora said he would be in favor of an alternative such as that created by the RHVS graduates.
“You know my recommendations consider the safety and health of all of our communities and students,” he said.
Administrators and staff also favored a drive-through graduation.
CRUHSD Principal Steve Lawrence said he has spent the past 30 years making sure youths are safe and receiving an education. Over the past couple of months, ensuring students’ safety has been difficult because “we closed schools to keep kids safe.”
Having the traditional ceremony at the fieldhouse is “not keeping kids safe,” he stressed.
The risk also extends to graduates’ families and extended families, Lawrence also said.
Fieldhouse General Manager Ed Catalfamo said that while he was concerned about going against recommendations of the state, county and the police chief — as well as the emergency coordinator for the city — “It puts us in an area we don’t want to be in.”
“How do you keep people from hugging and kissing?” he asked.
On the other hand, people are risking exposure to COVID-19 by going to stores and other places.
Allowing the 234 students set to graduate from MHS bring up to 468 guests would add up to about 700 people — excluding school district staff and others involved with the ceremony.
RVHS has a graduating class this year of 99 people. That group would have nearly 300, again excluding others participating in the ceremony. CRUHSD Academy would have about 50 students and guests alone.
Board president Kerry Burgess said that while he didn’t want to see anyone harmed, he also realized that life itself is filled with risks.
“The decision should be left to those who want to come to graduation,” Burgess said. “If you’re at risk, don’t come.”
District staff members were urged not to attend if doing so would be risky for them or their loved ones.
The district will try to make protective masks available to any of the spectators who want them.