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Round Rock ISD seniors petition for a traditional graduation ceremony with COVID-19 precautions

Westwood High School seniors plan to bring a proposal to the Board of Trustees on Thursday.

ROUND ROCK, Texas — While more Texans are getting vaccinated each day, many school districts are still taking precautions, like Round Rock ISD. Instead of a normal graduation, graduates will have a commencement walk, but some seniors are trying to change that through a petition

"It's a very empty feeling. Very, I guess, emotionless," said Hart Black, a Westwood High School senior.

"I didn't see that it wasn't very memorable. I didn't think that it honored the seniors as best as it could have or it could now," said Alayna Pelayo, another Westwood High School senior. 

Black and Pelayo don't want a repeat of last year's commencement walk for 2021 because they said the graduates deserve a taste of normality as more people get their vaccine shot.

The Class of 2021 has been stripped of many of its typical events, such as a Homecoming dance, a Homecoming Parade, two proms, Project Graduation, and now traditional graduation. Currently, what has been planned, is the same "Graduation Walk" that occurred last year.

Pelayo created a petition for a traditional in-person ceremony, where families can sit inside the Kelly Reeves ISD Athletic Complex and watch their loved ones walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. Pelayo and Black told KVUE other school districts, like Leander ISD, Hays CISD and Lake Travis ISD, will have in-person graduations with COVID-19 precautions in place. 

"We anticipate that Georgetown and Dripping Springs ISDs will follow suit as they held graduations last year under even more challenging COVID-19 restrictions. Even the University of Texas at Austin, with thousands of students, allows for a traditional ceremony at their stadium," states the petition. 

Pelayo and Black said the class of 2021 has been stripped of many rights-of-passage events, like prom, the homecoming dance, the homecoming parade and now graduation. 

"We just want to make sure that we're being a respectful as possible to Round Rock ISD. We've both had great experiences middle through high school," said Black.

"It's really going to be about presenting a feasible solution. So it's not just us complaining, but it's really giving a solution that could work and is safe and possible," said Pelayo. 

Pelayo said she calculated that the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex can safely accommodate up to 1,200 students, six feet apart. And some guests can even be in the stands watching the ceremony. All of these things are some important details to Pelayo, Black and many other seniors. 

"We're so confident in our district leaders that this is something that they can make happen for their seniors. We're really confident and excited about that," said Pelayo. 

Black and Pelayo said they have high hopes Round Rock ISD will be on their side once they present the proposal to the Board of Trustees on Thursday. 

In a response to the petition a Round Rock ISD official said, "We are still working out details regarding graduation. We hope to share more information with our seniors and their families soon. We want to do all we can to honor all our 2021 graduates while keeping our community safe and healthy."

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