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Parents create petition, want more graduation access from Charleston Co. schools

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 5:39 PM EDT
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MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - Parents of seniors at Wando High School are calling on the Charleston County School District to expand the number of people who can come to graduation.

More than 930 students will get their diplomas outside at the District 2 Stadium next month, but they can only bring three guests to the ceremony.

“They deserve a graduation with their family and their friends, it’s outside already,” a Wando senior parent, Stephanie Lemke said. “Let everybody come.”

Three days ago, Lemke started an online petition which, as of Monday afternoon, has garnered more than 440 signatures from people calling on the school district to reconsider that 3-person limit.

“I’ve just been waiting for them to come back and say, ’You know what, bring whoever you want. It makes sense now,’” Lemke said. “That announcement hasn’t come so I started a petition to see if there are other people who saw it the way I saw it, and people have just been coming out of the woodwork.”

CCSD spokesperson Andy Pruitt said the district is aware of the petition and has also received “calls from parents requesting a reconsideration of the number of guests for each graduate.”

“District staff members are researching possible ways to increase the number of tickets allotted for each graduate. However, we must do this safely since medical professionals are still not supporting large events outside without social distancing being an important protocol,” Pruitt said in a statement.

Parent Colleen Sabados said the ticket limit will mean some of her children won’t be able to attend.

“We are a family of six so you know two parents can go. Which sibling do we ask to go?” Sabados said. “It just doesn’t make sense. It was just very discouraging seeing that.”

For parent Kim Poremski, the limited seating means celebrating with extended family outside of the ceremony itself.

“I would love to be able to extend that invitation to my parents who are traveling in over 600 miles time to be here for the event, even though they know they may not be able to attend,” Poremski said.

The outside stadium has a maximum capacity of around 6,000 people, but this year the school district has only allowed 656 people per sporting event in the stands per their COVID-19 safety protocols.

To cut down on size, the 2021 class will be split up into three different graduation ceremonies taking place on June 18 and 19.

Sabados said she feels safe adding more tickets since the recent loosening of federal guidance for COVID-19 protocols as more people get vaccinated.

“And now especially since the CDC guidelines have changed and the whole event is outside it’s broken up into three events, I just don’t see a need for putting a limit on these families,” Sabados said.

Last year, Wando High School graduation tickets were limited to two guests per student.

“I actually do commend CCSD for having a graduation event in the first place,” Poremski said. “I would just like some indication that CCSD is inspecting and adapting their policies based on those changes in legislation guidelines.”

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