PHOENIX — As the Class of 2020 headed into their final months of the school year, life as they knew it quickly halted.
The coronavirus pandemic shut down school campuses at every level, sending students, parents and educators scrambling to find a way to finish out the year.
Staple rites of passage like prom, senior ditch day and graduation suddenly became questionable as physical distancing protocols were put in place to stop the spread of the virus.
In-person ceremonies were eventually totally nixed.
At least ten petitions have been published to Change.org urging school administrators to allow in-person graduations.
According to new numbers from Change.org, an online platform where users can collect virtual signatures on issues, more than 500 petitions have been set up across the country in support of in-person ceremonies.
A petition started on behalf of Arizona State University seniors has nearly 5,000 signatures.
"However, we urge President Crow to consider postponing graduation ceremonies rather than doing them virtually. The Class of 2020 deserves to be recognized separately from other graduating classes with traditional ASU celebrations and ceremonies," the petition reads.
ASU held its spring commencement ceremonies over the weekend and on Tuesday. The ceremonies were pre-recorded. Spring graduates were also invited to participate in ceremonies in December and next spring.
About 16,400 students graduated from ASU this month.
The online petitioners are not enthused by the idea of celebrating the culmination of hard work and academic achievement with a virtual graduation.
"As they entered their senior year, this is the MOMENT they having been looking forward to all year. Walking across that stage to receive recognition for all their hard work that they so well deserve," one petition says.
The sentiment many of the online appeals express is the need to have a traditional rite of passage -- or at least close to traditional.
Many of the petitioners are asking for postponed ceremonies or voluntary graduation celebrations with physical distancing incorporated.
The Apache Junction High School petition suggested requiring face masks, guests sitting six feet apart and no groups larger than five.
"A safe graduation is easily achievable if these guidelines are implemented," the petition says.
Apache Junction High School Principal Dr. Christopher Lineberry says he understands how students and parents are feeling.
"There's a lot of disappointment. It's unfortunate that we are in this position," Lineberry said.
The school has taken steps to plan a ceremony to honor seniors and lower the risk of spreading the virus.
Seniors will get an opportunity to individually receive their diploma. Four loved ones are allowed to attend and watch them walk across a stage. Face masks are required.
On June 5, a video of the seniors receiving their diploma and speeches will be shown at the rodeo grounds where students and supporters are invited to watch from their cars.
"We just don't want to put people at risk," Lineberry said.
At the time of publication, we had not heard back from other schools mentioned in the article about their graduation plans.
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