ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Students are speaking out after the St. Johns County School District announced plans for virtual graduations.
The school district announced it was canceling traditional high school graduations on Thursday.
Officials say the graduations were supposed to be held in the University of North Florida Arena, but the venue is no longer available because of COVID-19 concerns.
The decision was upsetting to many of the high school seniors who spoke with News4Jax.
There is even a petition on Change.org, started by a St. Augustine High School student, where students are suggesting postponing graduation at a later date instead of having a virtual graduation.
So far it has nearly 8,000 signatures. Students say they feel they’ve worked too hard to not get to walk across the stage.
For the past four years, Veronica Dominquez and her fellow seniors at Bartram Trail High School have waited for the rite of passage.
“We just want to say, to walk across that stage, wear our cap and gowns, sit with our friends that we may never see again and have that memory, Class of 2020, that we graduated,” she said. “It doesn’t matter when we have graduation. It doesn’t matter where.”
For now, it doesn’t look that will happen after the district made the decision to cancel graduation with no plans to reschedule.
“It’s ridiculous," said Karina Hernandez, Bartram Trail High School senior. "We all want to go up on that stage and be recognized and shake the hands of our principal and our teachers who helped us throughout the years, not wave to them on a camera.”
“That’s a memory that we cannot get back in our time, in the future just something we won’t have if this change is not made," Isabella Camero, Bartram Trail High School said.
Superintendent Tim Forson announced in a video on Friday the district wants students to be able to have some kind of graduation before they move on to their next adventure.
“At this time, I’m not prohibiting an event later in the summer, but I do not want to plan a school-based graduation until we know more about what to expect," Forson said. "The last thing I want to do is to disappoint you a second time, by having a graduation at the school and then having to cancel it.”
The students hope their voices will be heard and they will get to receive their diplomas in a ceremony with the rest of their class.
“It doesn’t matter where we just want to be able to say that we were able to walk across a stage with our class," said Madison Paige, Bartram Trail High School senior.
The district said it will continue to monitor the novel coronavirus before determining what options may be available and reasonable for students and families.
Officials with Duval County and Clay County Public Schools say their districts are not canceling graduation, as of Friday.
News4Jax has reached out to other school districts in our area about their graduation plans, but we haven’t heard back yet.