COVID-19 changes Leander ISD graduation plans again

Gupton Stadium will continue to be the location where all Leander ISD seniors will graduate. The ceremonies start Thursday morning and will run through Saturday.

However new changes have created new doubts about how many will actually attend, according to senior Jackie Castillo.

"I know a lot of my friends are canceling, they just don’t think it’s worth going, the staff is not going to be there because of COVID happening, but I think it will be a good photo opportunity at least, to get the photo and say I graduated. I think that’s the most important part,” said Castillo.

Up until this weekend, the plan was to spread the graduates and their families out in the field. Due to social distancing guidelines, access was to be limited, but it was set up so there could be some type of unifying farewell. Administrators have now decided graduates and their families, up to eight, will drive up in no more than two cars at a designated time. After a health check, the graduation walk is now to be done as a single-family unit.


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Gabe Underwood said he will make the walk. "I think I was more disappointed it was changed, again. They seem to keep changing all the plans, I was, however, happy that they added more people, family members, that are allowed to come, that’s a nice change, I was happy with that," said Underwood.

Under the plan, parents, not school administrators, will give out diplomas and turn tassels; that’s pretty anti-climactic for Amelia Tapia. "It kind of feels we put in all this work, and they could have made something earlier, to where we actually can be handed a diploma, and actually had something go on, now it’s like to we even need to go, does it even have any point to it. Our parents are there, I love my mom but I see her every day, we could do something like that at home,” she said.

During the graduation walk, everyone involved has to wear a mask. To avoid the heat, all three days will have two sets of schools; with the first from 8 a.m. to noon and the late session from 6 to 10 p.m.  A video will be produced and made available later with comments from school staff and student leaders.

Inga Tapia, Amelia’s mom, remembers when the original plan had a graduation in the HEB Center. A lot of time and change has happened since that plan was in play.

“It’s a little disappointing because I wish we would have had it earlier on and follow what some of the other districts did, as for, if we were going to do a walk-in, just set it up the way Round Rock ISD, as an example, did it, instead of dragging it along, it’s something we kind of want a completion on to start the next phase of their life,” said Inga Tapia.

Back in May, at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex, Round Rock ISD held in-person graduation walk ceremonies.  A social distancing assembly line was used to hand out diplomas and also to take official pictures.

Taking part in a similar bittersweet farewell so late in the middle of summer is something the Walker family may take a pass on.  Audrey Walker said she is starting to move forward and is not looking back. "Yeah, I've kind of have, because I've started to do college now, I’m doing summer classes,” she said.

For Bob Walker, COVID-19 may have ruin graduation, but it hasn't taken away his pride in what Audrey has accomplished. "I'm going to support her, in her college endeavors,” said Walker who got a smile and a thanks from Audrey.


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