Although it’s still two months out, Mackay High School’s May 17 graduation ceremony could be held indoors if the coronavirus continues to loosen its hold on Idaho.
“If nothing happens, which you never know, graduation will be in the gym,” Mackay Superintendent Susan Buescher said.
Graduation has traditionally been held in the gym, but last year’s ceremony was postponed until June and held on the football field due to the virus. While that ceremony went well, Buescher told school board members at their March meeting if they have the ceremony in May it would be better to do it inside. This year’s ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. and people probably won’t want to sit outside while the 21 graduates celebrate their accomplishment, Buescher pointed out.
If graduation takes place in the gym, number of people allowed to attend has to be determined, Buescher said. For extracurricular activities in the gym, Gov. Brad Little’s and the Mackay district’s COVID-19 plans allow for 40 percent capacity.
That equates to 228 bleacher seats, according to the school’s plan. Family members of graduates traditionally sit in folding chairs on the gym floor, which could affect the number of bleacher seats that can actually be used.
Buescher said graduation crowds haven’t exceeded that number in many years, so it may not be a big concern.
There’s also the changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic itself to consider, Buescher said. There’s no way to know if there will be more or fewer restrictions in Idaho in two months. Even though the positivity rate has declined in the state since the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, that doesn’t mean a surprise spike won’t occur between now and May, she said.
Buescher’s concerns aren’t unfounded. At last year’s ceremony, the event was nearly canceled after two positive cases, one a Mackay man in his 20s and another who was related to one of the graduates, were confirmed two days before graduation.