Buckeye Union High School District

While Buckeye Union High School District stressed social distancing, which was strictly followed during ceremonies, some graduates did not exit Goodyear Ballpark immediately after graduation ceremonies and failed to practice the social distancing that had been emphasized.

Buckeye Union High School District remains the only West Valley district—and one of the few in the entire Valley—that held graduation ceremonies in a large, public venue. 

According to Eric Godfrey, superintendent of the district, strict social distancing guidelines were reviewed with students of Buckeye Union, Youngker and Estrella Foothills high schools before the June 8, 9 and 10 graduation ceremonies at Goodyear Ballpark.

“We had, as a governing board, decided to go forward with precautions in place,” Godfrey said.

“We had about 90% of the student body (at the graduations) and worked with the city of Goodyear and our insurance trust to put in place (social distancing),” Godfrey said. “We’ve had nothing but positive feedback.”

He said there were 1,500 to 1,800 spectators at each graduation. Up to five tickets per student were distributed.

Among the guidelines were “all attendees encouraged to wear masks”; however, several district representatives did not wear masks.

According to information Godfrey forwarded to the West Valley View, guidelines for graduates included:

• All graduates spaced 10 feet apart across the grass in the outfield of the ballpark facing the left field video screen.

• All student speeches were pre-recorded to avoid microphone sharing.

• The event was streamed live, so the graduate only stood to be recognized and their face was shown on the jumbo video screen in left field.

• No handshaking or any physical congratulating contact with graduates.

• Students had staggered entrance and exiting  of the field under social distancing guidelines.

• Diplomas were distributed upon graduate entry to the field in order to eliminate grouping  after the event to get diplomas.

• There were no choral or band presentations during the graduation.

“We had very successful graduations in an outdoor venue with limited attendance and social distancing practice in place. They were very well received by those in attendance and those that graduated,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey was unapologetic about hugging Rob Roberson, the retiring Youngker High School principal.

“That was a brief moment for me to recognize him in front of parents and the community,” Godfrey said. “In that moment, to be able to acknowledge a colleague and friend was appropriate.”

Godfrey praised graduates for following the social distancing guidelines.

However, at the end of the Buckeye Union High School ceremony, after students were advised to exit the field, many can be seen in the district’s video lingering and hugging.

And most of the graduates gathered for a group photo.

“One of the photographers took it upon himself to do that—we had plans in place for (the graduates) to exit,” Godfrey said.

“We stopped it as quickly as possible. It didn’t happen on our other (graduation ceremonies),” he added.