TAMPA, Fla. — Students, parents, and teachers are all struggling to accept their new reality, after Governor DeSantis announced that Florida schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.
While they understand the reasoning behind the decision, high school seniors are still heartbroken, worried they won’t get to walk across the stage at graduation to mark one of the biggest milestones of their lives.
“It’s like our worst nightmare became a reality,” said Diamond Pink, a high school senior at Leonard High School.
For most high school seniors, the governor’s announcement didn’t come as a surprise, but more of a shot to the heart.
“It’s almost like I’ve reached the finish line, I’ve worked 12 years in school to get a graduation, to have a prom, and now that’s not happening, it’s kind of hard to deal with it,” said Ninah Pierce, a high school senior at Riverview High School.
The class of 2020 did not expect their graduation would be any less than traditional.
“Yeah, we may get the diploma and everything, but we don’t get that closure of different friendships that we created,” said Aaliyah Burr, a high school senior at Tampa Bay Tech High School.
It is something the teachers are having a hard time accepting as well.
“It’s a shared experience that we’ve had getting to this point and they’re being denied their acknowledgment of this massive accomplishment,” said Sherry Ross, an art teacher at Tenoroc High School in Polk County.
In an effort to still hold some type of graduation, school staff across Tampa Bay are working around the clock to make sure these seniors feel celebrated.
“If you’re walking across that stage, you deserve it and you are amazing and everyone should be clapping for you because you accomplished it,” said Ross.
It’s a type of graduation the class of 2020 never asked for.
“Eventually they might happen, so that’s kind of how I’m looking at it, just being optimistic about the situation,” said Pierce.
But it’s a graduation they’ll always remember.
“There are just moments that we look forward to, like spending as the class of 2020,” said Pink.
For many districts across the Tampa Bay region, graduation is not canceled, rather put on hold, while they decide the best, and safest way to celebrate their seniors.