TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Tahlequah High School Class of 2020 will have an in-person graduation and student-led baccalaureate, but it will not have a district-sponsored prom, as determined by votes of the Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education Tuesday night.
The Save-A-Senior event was tabled for a special July board meeting after organizers get an approved plan from the venue, Northeastern State University, or present another option.
The meeting was set to be broadcast on Facebook, but due to public interest and four members of the public signed up to speak, it was moved to the THS cafeteria.
"We need a graduation. It's what we've been working for; we didn't have the last four months," said Jayvian Gladd, THS senior.
"It's what we want."
Over 40 students and parents attended, many with signs encouraging the board to approve the seniors' events. Two seniors and two parents spoke, expressing the desire to have the events.
"There are many things these students would like to finish out. Graduation would give them that closure," said Audra Conner, parent.
Due to the number of people and the placement on the agenda, the board voted to move up the Class of 2020 events to follow the public comment.
DeAnn Mashburn, executive director of curriculum and personnel, read the guidelines set by NSU for graduation, as it is set to be held at Doc Wadley Stadium on July 24. No graduation practice or pregraduation gathering will occur. Each graduate will receive four tickets, and all attending will have their temperatures checked and answer screening questions. Masks are strongly encouraged. Social distancing will be marked out for entry and for seating, as well as for the graduates on the field. There will not be a processional, and no items will be handed out on stage.
"We would be the largest group approved for an event so far," said Mashburn.
Baccalaureate is scheduled for July 22 in the Performing Arts Center. Mashburn said that traditionally, about 100 people - students and parents - attend the religious event. Lorraine Walker and Chrissi Nimmo voted against having the event, while Shaun Shepherd, Ed Myers and Dana Eversole voted for it.
While Nimmo initially motioned to cancel Save-A-Senior, the topic was tabled, along with the purchase order items related to it. Organizers must have a plan in place to receive board approval at the next meeting. If the event is not held, it must be determined how the $16,260 from fundraising in the Save-A-Senior account is distributed.
The board voted unanimously to cancel the reservation of the prom's venue and not to sponsor that event. Conner had mentioned that parents could organize a prom on their own, and Ashlock said whatever they do off campus is up to them.
Board members expressed their appreciation that the students and families were present and considerate. Nimmo said she received emails from 17 senior class members before the meeting and said that they were all polite, professional, exhibited good grammar and punctuation, and were well-reasoned.
Gourd writes for Tahlequah Daily Press, a CNHI LLC publication.