SIERRA VISTA — Sierra Vista Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Eric Holmes said more than 70% of Buena High School seniors and their parents voted in a survey to have a traditional graduation ceremony.

SVUSD Public Information Officer Valerie Weller said the graduation ceremony will be held at Buena’s Loveless Stadium football field, with one group of students walking on May 26 and the second on May 27 at 7 p.m. both nights. Social distancing and masks will be required throughout the ceremony.

“The survey was out for about three weeks,” said Holmes. “The overwhelming majority of the folks surveyed wanted to have it as traditional as possible.

“Each student will receive four tickets for the family and two parking tickets, one for the student and one for guests.”

Holmes said the administration recommends families carpool to save space in the school’s parking lot, of which there is limiting capacity.

Holmes also gave a COVID-19 update for the board. He reported that Cochise County was in “substantial transmission,” according to the Arizona Department of Health Services COVID-19 benchmarks, which defines an area that has 50-99 new cases per 100,000 individuals as “substantial.”

Since Tuesday’s board meeting, the ADHS has updated the number of cases and status of transmission in Cochise County. For the week of March 28, the department is reporting the county had 41 new cases per 100,000 individuals, a “moderate spread.”

“As a district, we have about 33.6% of our staff who have received at least one vaccine dose,” said Holmes. “County-wide, there are over 63,000 who’ve received at least one vaccine dose. We continue to encourage our staff to get vaccinated.”

Weller said the district is not requiring their employees to receive the COVID vaccine.

SVUSD Chief Financial Office Kenneth McGovern gave an update on the district’s budget. He said the district’s Food Service program continues to fall into a deficit in the district’s cash controlled funds.

“Unfortunately, Food Service continues to decline,” said McGovern on Tuesday evening. “As of this afternoon, we’re $374,000 in the red in cash (controlled funds) for Food Service.”

McGovern also said the district is looking at a $3.1 million decrease in the budget capacity due to the decline in weighted Average Daily Membership, which determines how much funding is allocated to the district.

“From the end of last year, weighted student count is down 701 students, which equates to about $3.1 million,” said McGovern.

Weller said that the district is waiting for the budget to be finalized by Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona State Legislature. Once finalized, the district will know the exact amount of the funding decrease for next academic year.

McGovern emphasizeds the importance of increasing ADM and enrollment in the district.

“So we need to do everything we can to entice these parents to bring their kids back to the district so we don’t have this huge fall off on our M and O (Maintenance and Operations) budget,” said McGovern.

Weller said the district will supplement that funding gap through the Enrollment Stabilization Grant, the {span}Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund 2 that was passed in December or ESSER 3, part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

Holmes said winners of the Sierra Vista Teacher of the Year award will be recognized at the governing board meeting on May 4, with one teacher from each campus being selected for the award.

Weller said the district will be honoring its district-wide Teacher of the Year along with its other employees nominated in Cochise County Superintendent Jacqui Clay’s Teacher of the Year ceremony on April 17.

“One teacher from each building will be recognized and they will receive an award,” said Holmes. “The district teacher of the year will also receive an award and we will have a new plaque on the wall. Each year, we will be placing another name as ‘Sierra Vista Teacher of the Year’ there.”

Holmes said the district plans to do something similar for their employee of the year.

Holmes also gave an update on the district’s Summer Academy, which will run June 7-July 16 across six district campuses. Holmes said since registration opened on March 31, more than 425 students registered for the academy.

“We’re really excited about that,” said Holmes. “We encourage our parents to go to the website and register. If you cannot do it on the website, each building has paper registration forms that you can go and get and fill out there and they will be accepted as well.”

Vice President of the Governing Board Connie Johnson inquired on the number of staff the district had for the Summer Academy.

“We have roughly 30 folks (staff) who have signed up,” said Holmes. “We’re looking to receive more applications. We’ve opened it up to any educator in the area who would like to participate.”