SIERRA VISTA — The state of Arizona is slowing opening up again, which has some Buena High School seniors and their parents wanting graduation to be postponed until June, instead of the drive-thru ceremony planned for next week.
Carsten Huber, the valedictorian of Buena’s Class of 2020, created a petition on change.org Tuesday afternoon with the hope of having school and district administrators change the plan for graduation, so that he and his classmates can celebrate their accomplishments together.
“Even if it’s smaller, as long as we’re together, that’s OK,” he said. “I’ll see my best friends again, but it’s about seeing the kids I’ll never see again, that I want to see one more time.”
Michele DoPadre signed the online petition in support of the seniors.
“The seniors deserve the opportunity to walk,” DoPadre wrote on the petition site. “Our family was never even contacted to ask our opinion. I emailed (Buena Principal) Ms. (Kristen) Hale and pleaded with her to wait a month. Her response was the decision had already been made.”
“She said she could not ask faculty and staff to come in during the summer. I called the State Superintendent’s Office today — contracts are through June, so there would be no need to ask for volunteers. They were shocked to hear that parents and seniors were not consulted for feedback. They suggested contacting the Board Office,” her post on the petition continued.
In the first 24 hours since going up the petition had over 1,100 signatures from current seniors, family members of the Class of 2020, alumni as well as other supporters. Huber said when he created the petition that he thought it would generate a couple hundred signatures, but within minutes it spread more than he could have imagined.
“It got way bigger than I expected,” he said. “Part of the motivation for this is because I want to give my (valedictorian) speech in front of my friends.”
The idea to push for a postponement to June came to Huber after learning that the Tucson Unified School District postponed the graduations to all their schools, which he said impacts more than 6,000 seniors. Huber feels that more senior voices and parent concerns should have been heard, because the small group that did have a say didn’t represent the majority of the class, he said.
Hale told the Herald/Review in an email Monday afternoon the staff is still preparing for Plan A of their three part plan and having a drive-thru graduation.
“We are pleased that we are able to continue to plan for that first plan for graduation,” the statement read.
An email from the Herald/Review to Hale on Wednesday afternoon for reaction to the petition was not answered by press time. Huber said he contacted Hale with his concerns and request but hadn’t heard from her as of 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
Sierra Vista Unified School District spokesman Jacob Martinez said in a statement Wednesday afternoon to the Herald/Review that the district’s governing board and Superintendent Kelly Glass are aware of the petition to change the graduation ceremony.
“The graduation will continue to be a drive through procession happening over two days, next Thursday and Friday,” he said in the statement. “Based on the current guidelines we are following from the CDC, the governor and the Arizona Department of Education, we may not have more than 10 people gathering in one location. Part of the decision-making process for this district are the active COVID-19 cases on Ft. Huachuca and in Sierra Vista.”
“We are focusing on maintaining the procedures and precautions that are directed by the governor to keep our most vulnerable populations safe and prevent the spread of the virus in our community.
“The celebration next week has been well planned with parents, students, and staff collaborating on a workable solution that celebrates each graduate while keeping everyone safe,” the statement concluded.
Even before that statement was released, Huber was skeptical that Hale and the administration would change their mind.
“I don’t feel like the administration will change its mind. It’s more about letting her know we’re disappointed and upset we didn’t have a say in the process,” he said. “I’m worried of the repercussions, but if I can make a graduation for more kids, then I don’t mind.”