The father of a Palm Springs High School senior started a petition drive on hoping to persuade district leadership to postpone and reschedule graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020.  The 1,489-and-counting signatures the father gathered failed to make an impact. – at least to date.

With changes in Riverside County health restrictions, Superintendent Dr. Sandra Lyon told Uken Report that “We continue to explore any other option for recognition that we might be able to do in conjunction with the virtual graduation.”

A virtual graduation is not really a graduation, according to the petition drive.

“While it is true the school district is tasked with keeping our students, parents, and staff safe, it is also true that said district works FOR those same people,” according to the petition. “This is a monumental decision in the lives of these young adults who have worked so hard & dreamed of this moment for many years.  Before making such a unilateral decision affecting so many, why weren’t any outside groups approached to contribute ideas or alternatives to this drastic approach?

All PSUSD graduation ceremonies will be virtual

All graduation ceremonies in the Palm Springs Unified School District will be virtual starting Thursday, May 28 and concluding Thursday, June 4.

“My senior daughter and her friends are devastated by the loss of their senior year and all the closing activities,” Mark Abercrombie, who initiated the petition drive, told Uken Report.

After watching the U.S. Air Force Academy hold a successful “social-distanced” graduation ceremony in early April, Abercrombie said he thought that the school district’s decision to hold virtual ceremonies two months in advance of the actual date was the “easy way out.”

“A postponed and modified ceremony with only graduates in attendance, no parents in attendance, and live-streamed would have given the deserving graduates their proper due,” Abercrombie told Uken Report.

He said he lobbied diligently for an actual ceremony to give his daughter and her friends “closure.”

Petitioner says he is ‘shut down’

Despite the robust petition drive and a letter to Superintendent Sandra Lyon, Abercrombie said he was “basically shut down.”

“We are asking them to temporarily delay until a date later in the summer, then use virtual option as last resort,” Abercrombie said. “This is par for our district. Once they make their minds up, it is difficult to get our current leadership to look at alternate viewpoints. I’ve been in a few tussles with them over the years. Some failed and a few successes.”

Superintendent responds to petitioner

Following is Superintendent Lyon’s response to Abercrombie in its entirety.

“First, and foremost, we could not be more heartbroken about the devastating impact this virus has had on our students and families – especially our seniors. The decision to move to virtual graduations instead of physical graduations was not one that was made lightly and not one we wanted to make at all. The safety of our students, families and staff is of our utmost concern.

“We have four comprehensive high schools with several hundred in each senior class this year, which would mean gatherings of hundreds to several thousand for each ceremony.  Official closure orders are in effect in Riverside County through June 20 at this time and the Governor has said repeatedly that he does not expect large gatherings to resume for at least several months.   After reviewing the County and State guidance and knowing that the likelihood of a large gathering is very, very low, we decided to move forward with planning for a virtual graduation.  Planning large scale events, whether live or virtually, takes time and we wanted to make sure we had the time to plan and prepare appropriately.  We want to celebrate and honor our graduates at the time that their physical ceremonies would have been held, as districts throughout the state are doing, because many of our seniors are ready to receive their diplomas and launch into the next phase of their lives. We have no idea how long into the future the prohibition of large gatherings will continue which makes it impossible to plan a different time; and we have been cautioned by officials that anything set for a future date is subject to change. We want to recognize our seniors now for this amazing milestone in their lives and we are supporting our high schools as they work on their own creative and unique ways to bring students and their families together through virtual ceremonies now and possible physical celebrations and recognitions in the future.

“Again, thank you for reaching out and sharing the disappointment and frustration that is being felt by all of us at this unprecedented and incomprehensible time. We hope at some point you can understand our reasons for the difficult decisions being made now.”

Virtual graduation dates are as follows:

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