‘I want them to listen’: KCK seniors start petition after district plans drive-in graduation

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Some students in Kansas City, Kansas, are pushing back about plans for their graduation.

A graduation petition is gaining traction in after the school district announced a drive-thru ceremony at Boulevard Drive-In.

This comes as districts like Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission announce plans for more traditional ceremonies in late June and July.

“At first, you know, before I knew what the dos and don’ts were for the graduation, I was OK with it. But then they said we we couldn’t get out the car, limited one car per family, no revs, no buses. I was like, ‘This isn’t fair,’” said Sumner Academy graduate Alicia Taylor said.

Students like Taylor from all around the district are taking to social media expressing their disappointment and frustration. 

“They never asked for our input until people started protesting,” Washington High senior Angel Bailey said. “It’s just a milestone for us because a lot of us didn’t think we’d make it this far. I want them to listen to us.”

Angie Tolefree, a mother of a Washington High School graduate, started a Change.org petition to garner support. The petition has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

“The rest of the year was messed up, so why not try for something else? They only gave us plan A, no other option was given. The kids deserve this,” Tolefree said.

A spokesperson for the KCKPS district released the following statement: 

“We appreciate the input from students and parents on what they think graduation should look like for this year’s senior class. The onset of COVID-19 abruptly changed much of the daily and regular routines we became accustomed to for so long. A traditional graduation ceremony is an example of one of those common recurring events.

“We heard a lot of concerns from seniors and parents on whether a graduation was even possible this year after schools closed in March due to the health pandemic. The school district began thinking of innovative ways to host ceremonies within the local and state orders. The idea of the drive-in graduation rose to the top of those discussions and was later shared with principals and students.

“We received a lot of support for this idea, but recently there have been some complaints and suggestions for a different approach. We encourage the feedback and appreciate the varying ideas. The school district’s main priority is on the safety and health of our students during this health crisis. We currently have a location and dates scheduled in June.  The school board has approved for us to proceed with hosting graduations under the current plan within the social distancing guidelines.

“We all must understand that any deviation from this current model or plan to host a graduation ceremony at a future date is not a guaranteed option due to the uncertainty of COVID-19.”

Taylor said more than anything, even if the pandemic keeps it from happening, they want the option — and their voices to be heard.

 “I am fine with waiting,” Taylor said.

The six graduations, set to be held at Boulevard Drive-In Theater, will begin June 1.

Students are encouraged to decorate their vehicles much like they would their caps. No one will be able to get out of their vehicles during the ceremony.

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