Against State Education Department Recommendations, Catoosa High School Holds In-Person Graduation

May 22, 2020

When Catoosa High School announced it would be one of the few Tulsa-area high schools to hold a traditional, in-person graduation ceremony for its seniors, it said it would reference Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and remove anyone not following a list of restrictions meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But a video of the Thursday ceremony posted to the Catoosa Public Schools Facebook page shows graduates huddling and embracing in violation of six-foot distancing recommendations, and administrators on the stage not wearing masks while handing students their diplomas.

The CDC recommends wearing face coverings in situations where keeping 6 feet of distance would be difficult or impossible.

In a letter to the school community sent on Wednesday, Principal Josh Brown said temperatures would be taken at the entrance and anyone with a fever would not be permitted to enter.

Public health experts have advised that the novel coronavirus is spread, in many cases, by individuals with no symptoms.

Sam Brown, the chief of the Catoosa Campus Police Department, told KWGS on Thursday that administrators would "do our level best" to keep the estimated 1,200 guests and 120 graduating seniors safe from contracting or spreading the virus.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education, in a May 18 document posted to their website, said the agency "strongly encourages districts to consider waiting until or after June 1 to hold in-person graduation ceremonies."

Brown did not respond Friday to a request for comment.