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High schools, universities bring back graduations with in-person, outdoor ceremonies

Posted at 11:53 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 00:53:58-04

WACO, TX — Spring graduation marks the end of a full year for students coping with classes amid the pandemic.

"Like at first, we had two weeks off school, and I thought it was gonna be over after that. As time went on, it was like more and more things were getting canceled... I didn't think it would last this far into it, but here we are," said Baylor senior Sid Schornstein.

The 2020-21 school year was defined by CDC guidelines that affected everything from day-to-day classes to last year’s graduations.

This year, Baylor seniors have something to celebrate, as in-person ceremonies are back. School officials have shifted the celebrations from indoors at the Ferrell Center to outside at McLane Stadium.

"This will be our first ceremony that we've ever had at McLane Stadium in terms of commencement, but we believe it's also the first time we've ever had an outdoor commencement ceremony as well," said Jason Cook, vice president of marketing and communications for Baylor University.

Since McLane Stadium is open and quite large, graduates can bring an unlimited number of guests. Everyone is asked to social distance as well as wear a face mask.

"We are going to give graduates the option of taking their face covering off as they walk across the stage cause we know that graduation photo is very important for a lifetime of memories," said Cook.

For Waco ISD, this will be their second year the school district will have outdoor graduation ceremonies at Waco ISD Stadium, with the same guidelines as last year.

"Folks were really positive. We enjoyed it and thought it'd be nice to hold it again at the stadium the next year and make some changes," said Josh Wucher, executive director for communications for Waco ISD.

Among the changes, ceremonies will be in the evening and each graduate will be allowed six guests, compared to last year's two.

"It's going to be nice to be able to walk and have something official happen. It will be like closure," said Schornstein.

Baylor University is also hosting a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 so recent grads can have their moment walking across the stage.

Graduation for Baylor is May 6 through May 8. Graduation for Waco ISD is June 11 and June 12, weather permitting.