‘All I really wanted is to just be able to walk’ DOE green lights limited graduation ceremonies

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) canceled prom and other large gatherings in January, 2021, but left commencement ceremonies up in the air. HIDOE said on Thursday, Feb. 25, protocols to keep COVID-19 from spreading in schools have worked and it will be allowing schools to hold graduations.

There are some rules that are in place, however, such as making sure the ceremony is held outdoors or in a venue with adequate ventilation.

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Rules on wearing masks and social distancing of six feet must also be followed at all times and schools must limit the number of staff and provide them with PPE equipment.

Trinity Miyake, a Maui High School senior who is planning to graduate in May, said school has been tough with social distancing but she is looking forward to what graduation will bring.

“Knowing that the students like us seniors can actually walk (at graduation) makes me super happy and excited because that’s all I really wanted is to just be able to walk.”

Trinity Miyake, a Maui High School Senior

She said, she has been anxious to see what the final verdict would be for months.

“I’m part of the Maui High School choir. I knew we probably wouldn’t get our last choir concert last homecoming and all this stuff, but I was really, really holding on (to hope),” said Miyake.

“Whatever happens, you know, I just hope that it’s a graduation where even if we have to watch it virtually, the kids get a big stage and get all of that because these kids have been through more than any other senior class,” said Kris Miyake, Trinity’s father.

It is not just families that are excited by the news, but event businesses as well.

Hawaii Events Unlimited said, they went from doing 150 events per year down to about 15 per year after the pandemic struck. Things are turning around, however.

“We’ve been having a lot of clients contacting us and that’s giving us hope and then the news of moving to Tier 3 and then this news with the DOE its making me very hopeful, very hopeful,” said Marvin Ventura, Hawaii Events Unlimited co-Owner.

Graduation is one of the bigger events they do. He said, they provide lighting, audio services, confetti and live-streaming services.

“I just look forward to, you know, being there and providing whatever they need … And just, just be there and give that excitement. (it’s good to) see the kids all excited to know that they’re graduating,” said Ventura.

It will be up to each school as to how graduation will be held. The Aloha Stadium — which has hosted tons of graduations in prior years — said they already have a few schools booked at their venue and are working with them to create a plan.

Some plan options include having only students attend the in-person ceremony inside the stadium while family and friends watch on a screen outside. A drive-through graduation ceremony is another option that is available.

These are also some of the of the guidance options HIDOE has given for larger schools.

Father Kris Miyake said, now parents have to keep the schools accountable and make sure they do what they can to make graduation memorable for the students.

“We’ve been given permission to have a graduation, but now (it’s up to) the schools to not just do something that’s makeshift but, let’s give the students what they deserve,” said Miyake. “Let’s show the students that they’re special, and that all of the adversity what they went through this year is worth it.”

The HIDOE said, schools must continue to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Hawaii Department of Health advisories on COVID-19. They continued to say if COVID-19 cases trend high as graduation approaches, they will work with Gov. David Ige’s office, county mayors and schools to determine if any modifications to the guidances are necessary.

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