For many high school graduates, the tough decisions are temporarily behind them.
They completed their education, have mostly chosen where they will go next and may have even chosen college courses.
But for seniors like Choctawhatchee High School’s Kaitlynn Contreras, one of the hardest decisions lies ahead.
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Thanks to COVID-19, Okaloosa County School District officials had to choose how many tickets each senior would get for his or her her graduation.
The magic number turned out to be four, a decision Superintendent Marcus Chambers said Tuesday was made by him and principals from the district’s four largest high schools.
Contreras has three siblings and two parents, which means sometime between now and next week’s graduation, she has to choose which sibling to uninvite.
That child will likely stay home with a half-dozen extended family members, including three grandparents who are traveling from Arizona. Kaitlynn will be the first child on either side of the family to graduate from high school.
"She’ll be the first child and first grandchild to be graduating," said her mother, Judine Sullivan.
After the family received word of the ticket limitation, she wrote to Chambers to express her frustration and disappointment.
She never got a response. On Tuesday, district personnel told the Daily News that Chambers had heard from "a handful" of families prior to making the official announcement, and none since.
On Tuesday the Daily News sent a copy of Sullivan’s correspondence to Chambers’ spokesperson, but had not gotten a response by mid-day Wednesday.
The decision to allow the class of 2020 to graduate in one group rather than at smaller ceremonies was based in part on the ability to socially distance family groups in the large football stadiums.
"From the time these graduations were first planned, we knew we could be looking at limited seating, and made sure that was communicated in earlier information that was sent out," Steve Horton, the district’s spokesman, responded to emailed questions. "After recent discussions with the Department of Health, we determined that a limited number of tickets per graduate was indeed needed to help families socially distance. Principals of the four major high schools reviewed their list of graduates and their available seating to arrive at a consensus number."
That’s also one of the things Sullivan finds most upsetting. Choctaw’s stadium, she pointed out, could easily hold larger family groups while still accommodating the need for social distancing.
She said the ticket limit discriminates against larger families as well as graduates with divorced parents, whose extended families likely exceed four.
The district’s email said no exceptions were being made to the four tickets per graduate limit.
The ceremonies will be live-streamed, with links located on the School District’s website.