Instead of traditional graduation ceremonies, Rio Rancho Public Schools is planning to partner with the City of Rio Rancho to hold socially distanced activities on May 27, deemed Class of 2020 Day.

On Tuesday, RRPS made the first email announcement of the plan to parents.

Some parents were upset.

“I want to see my son dressed up in his cap and gown,” Mollie Moreno, parent of a Cleveland High School senior, wrote in an email to Superintendent Sue Cleveland, provided to the Observer the next day. “I selfishly want to see him walking down the aisle to receive his well-deserved high school diploma. Please, can we entertain a live ceremony?”

She asked for a delay of the decision on whether to hold tradition, in-person ceremonies to allow for the possibility of such events still being able to happen. She also suggested holding commencements in football stadiums with a limited number of guests and half of each class at one time, or having parents park along a road while graduates walked down the street.

The State of New Mexico has prohibited gatherings of more than four people outside of members of one household at home, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she’ll extend that and other social-distancing orders until May 15, and some restrictions will remain much longer.

Graduates can pick up their diplomas on May 20, according to the school district.

The RRPS email said May 27 would include “fun, but still socially distanced, activities planned around this citywide graduation day.” Valedictorians, salutatorians and other designated seniors are expected to give speeches via an online broadcast, and district staff members are planning a tassel ceremony on the evening of May 27.

Sue Cleveland

“This was a very difficult discussion and one that we agonized over,” Cleveland said in a letter sent to parents Wednesday. “We know how important a graduation ceremony is to your child and your family. This is a milestone tradition which marks the end of one phase of our students’ lives — the memories, hard work, honors and championships, and even sometimes tears.

“It is also important to us, and we want to celebrate our students. Our administrators, teachers and staff members love to see our students walk across the stage … It’s what we work tirelessly for day in and day out.”

Cleveland wrote that district leaders discussed holding commencement in the summer or December, but Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced social gatherings would continue to be banned during the summer and possibly into fall and winter. Plus, district officials worried that waiting to hold ceremonies would exclude students who had already left to pursue their next steps and allow families to make extensive plans that might have to be abandoned due to restrictions still being in place.

District employees and a few students and parents are still planning Class of 2020 Day events.

“We will keep our fingers crossed for good news in regards to social gatherings this summer, but we are not anticipating it,” Cleveland wrote. “Should anything change in our favor, we will certainly rally to offer traditional graduation ceremonies for our students.”