Starring a new tradition

LISD confirms graduation at the Ford Center


Aiden Gonzalez

The class of 2021 will get to experience a relatively normal graduation ceremony amid an abnormal year.

The district has confirmed this year’s graduation will take place on Sunday, May 30 at 1 p.m. at the Ford Center at The Star

After months of around-the-clock planning, student activities director Allison Stamey, along with other district officials, declared The Star the official venue, finding it best fit their vision of this year’s graduation. Stamey, who has organized graduations since 2009, feels optimistic about the new venue, as moving to a new location is something she’s long advocated for after a dramatic increase in class size about six years ago. 

“I’m most excited the district approved to have it there, and that it will always fit the size of our graduation class on the floor,” Stamey said. “Having graduations in the past where we had to seat our graduates up in the stands and they couldn’t be on the floor with their classmates, it just saddened me.”

Graduation ceremonies had taken place at the UNT Coliseum since 1978, with last year being the exception as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Graduations for the class of 2020 were relocated to the Texas Motor Speedway, leading graduation plans for the class of 2021 to begin earlier than usual for district officials. Chief of high schools Andy Plunkett, said they alternated between UNT’s Apogee Stadium, Texas Motor Speedway and The Star, ultimately deciding on The Star, as it had availability for the weekend of graduation. He also spoke about other contributing factors that went into play when choosing a location. 

“At the point we booked [the Star], they had not opened big venues,” Plunkett said. “They were actually at 25% capacity. That was one of the things we had to weigh the pros and cons [of]: having it outside and having to deal with the weather knowing it could be canceled, or having to be inside knowing people only might get a [certain] number of tickets for their parents to come. We kind of went back and forth on that and decided it was just too good of a deal [and] too good of a venue to pass up, especially since that same weekend worked for us.”

Governor Greg Abbott’s recent announcement, which removes the mask mandate and goes into effect today, has left people in a state of uncertainty. Even still, Plunkett said the district plans proceed with COVID guidelines and include masks as part of the graduation regime. 

“Our plan is to order masks again for all the graduates,” Plunkett said. “One of the things we did last year was, after the students went across the stage, they went into this little tent and an official photographer was there to take a photo of them with their diploma, and they were able to take their mask off in that picture. I could see us doing stuff like that, socially distanced.”

Until capacity at the Star is officially determined, graduates won’t know exactly how many guests they can bring. Such details will be provided following spring break. In the meantime, Stamey assured graduates that, unlike last year’s, the graduation ceremony will have a traditional feel. 

“The graduates are going to cross a real stage, they’re going to get their diploma and have photo opportunities,” Stamey said. “Being on stage as the graduates are getting their diploma, that’s just special to me.” 

Senior Student Council school service officer, Morris Mims, also shared similar sentiments, speaking on his enthusiasm in regard to seeing fellow classmates one last time in a relatively normal manner. 

“It’s going to be the first major moment a lot of the class of 2021 has seen,” Morris said.  “There’s people I haven’t seen since March 13 of last year, and we didn’t have any [senior] events, so I think this is going to be the first time I see a lot of people I went to school with for a long time. It’s probably also the last time.” 

Overall, Plunkett stated his confidence in the district’s planning and feels a successful graduation awaits in the spring. The question of whether or not future graduations will be held at The Star remains, but nevertheless, he feels it will be a memorable experience for graduates and attendees alike. 

“I think the seniors are definitely going to feel like we went all out and that we didn’t cut any corners, that we made it special,” Plunkett said. “I think they’re going to feel honored walking onto the floor. There’s lots of big screens and cameras. It’s just a really neat place to be. I think everybody who goes is going to be like ‘Oh my god, this is awesome.’ They’re going to feel like we did it right, for sure.”