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UPDATE: LPSS says graduation will happen this week

Generic graduation
Posted at 4:17 PM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-06 18:49:40-04

UPDATE: LPSS graduations will happen this week, officials say; they are working to fix the problems.

Here's the statement we received:

The Lafayette Parish School System was informed this afternoon that graduation ceremonies planned for this week can no longer be held at the Cajundome. While this news is disappointing, district staff is working on an alternative plan to celebrate our graduating seniors. The commencement ceremonies will still take place this week and an updated plan will be released as soon as the details are finalized.

Lafayette Parish School System's high schools were scheduled to hold graduation ceremonies this week, but that's on hold right now because those plans didn't get state approval.

The school board will meet in special session tomorrow to try to come up with a solution. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in the board room.

Ceremonies were planned for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The plans included social distancing, temperature checks and limits on attendance, but the largest ceremony still would have involved approximately 2,000 people in the Cajundome, officials say.

That doesn't meet the state's orders limiting gatherings of more than 250 people. When the Cajundome sent the plans to the State Fire Marshal's Office for approval - they didn't get it.

"After discussions with several representatives of LDH, there is not a consensus to authorize gatherings of these numbers at this time due to the recent spike in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. It has been recommended that your proposed events not occur with the crowd sizes proposed," an email from the Fire Marshal states.

The email does point out that outdoor events are not limited to the 250 population.

When Mayor-President Josh Guillory orders some limitations aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, he specifically stated that these graduation ceremonies were exempt from his order. However, his order put a limit of 200 people on gatherings. The state's order - which he does not have the authority to suspend - puts a limit of 250 people on gatherings.

Each graduate was given four tickets, according to the plans. According to February 2020 counts reported to the state Department of Education, here are the approximate number of seniors at each school, followed by the number of guests they would have been allowed to have:

Acadiana High School - 365 seniors, 1,460 guests, total (not including faculty): 1,825
Carencro High School - 181 seniors, 724 guests, total (not including faculty): 905
Comeaux High School - 224 seniors, 896 guests, total (not including faculty): 1,120
Lafayette High School - 436 seniors, 1,744 guests, total (not including faculty): 2,180
Northside High School - 101 seniors, 404 guests, total (not including faculty): 505
Early College Academy - 64 seniors, 256 guests, total (not including faculty): 320
David Thibodaux STEM - 162 seniors, 648 guests, total (not including faculty): 810
Southside High School - 331 seniors, 1,324 guests, total (not including faculty): 1,655

It should be noted that not all seniors end up graduating on time.

According to the plans, in addition to social distancing in the audience, there also would have been no bands playing and no rehearsals. The plans also set an outside location in a parking lot for families to greet grads, as opposed to the front of the arena, where the traditional greeting area was.

Masks would be required of all in attendance, and there are hand sanitizer stations throughout the arena for patrons to use. Cajundome staff were to be deployed around the arena, constantly disinfecting high-touch areas, including escalators, restrooms and doors. The concessions would be closed to limit crowding, and when the ceremonies were finished the audience would be dismissed by section, instead of a mass exit.