In an already disruptive school year, Philly graduations postponed due to thunderstorms

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — With the threat of more bad weather, the School District of Philadelphia is postponing or relocating many of its outdoor high school graduations. It’s one more disruption in an already difficult year for seniors who have spent the entire year learning online.

The school district has discouraged principals from holding in-person outdoor graduations on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday because of the threat of thunderstorms. Philadelphia’s 60 high schools were told to move graduations indoors if possible, postpone them to rain dates, or hold them virtually.

At least eight schools including Overbrook, GAMP, Robeson, South Philadelphia, Randolph, Sayre, Frankford and Northeast High Schools are sticking with their original plans to hold outdoor graduations this week.

Parents at other schools say the abrupt change is one more disappointment for seniors who have spent their entire year learning online because of COVID-19. Isalene Johnson said her son, Vaughn Johnson-Baptiste, a senior at Roxborough High, was supposed to graduate Wednesday, but the ceremony was postponed until Monday.

“He is truly frustrated,” she said. “He’s been frustrated the entire year. He’s disappointed, to say the least.”

The grad is also leaving Saturday for a trip to Disney, so he won’t be able to receive his diploma in person with his friends.

“I still feel bad because he did not have a senior year,” she added.

Johnson appreciates that the district has tried to host in-person graduations for students who have studied virtually all year. But she expressed frustration that the district’s decision came on Tuesday — less than 24 hours before the ceremony was to have been held.

“I know the district was trying to give them a graduation and not make it like the class of 2020. But you still dropped the ball,” she said.

Her son did go to Roxborough’s prom last week — it rained, but the prom went on.

In a statement, district spokesperson Monica Lewis said, “The School District of Philadelphia recognizes that high school graduation is a significant milestone and is committed to celebrating our graduating seniors with a commencement ceremony. Our principals and staff have worked tirelessly to create safe opportunities for in-person graduations to take place this week.”

Principals at other individual schools are communicating graduation plans to families.​