By Bill Spinks

The strains of Pomp and Circumstance will be heard at Midlothian ISD’s Multipurpose Stadium at the end of this month.

Instead of transporting MISD graduation ceremonies out of county under one proposal, the district will go ahead with commencements at the stadium on Friday night, May 29 for Midlothian High School and Saturday night, May 30 for Heritage High School.

The MISD board of trustees last week set the dates for the district’s high schools during a special meeting after the Texas Education Association had finally set social distancing protocols. At Monday night’s regular monthly meeting, the board heard details of how the district will pull off graduation in a COVID-19 world and made its final approval.

“This is a huge event for Midlothian ISD obviously, the graduation ceremonies of both high schools,” superintendent Dr. Lane Ledbetter said. “We wanted to put in enough time to adequately put a plan in place that would recognize our seniors in the best way possible. There have been a lot of changes … We have received guidance from multiple sources and we continue to (do so) and unfortunately all those sources do not always align with what the expectations should be for a district this size in our community.”

Ledbetter said the district’s two high school principals, MHS’ Gary Gates and HHS’ Krista Tipton, have worked “unbelievable hours” to put in a plan. He added that the ceremony will not look like it has in the past because of all the precautions.

Ledbetter said seating at the 8,000-capacity stadium will be limited to 2,000 for social-distancing reasons. Students will be limited to four in-person guests.

Tipton told the board that input was accepted from multiple sources, including the school district, city, public health officials and students. Social distancing guidelines will be followed and a livestream of the event will be available for those not able to attend the in-person ceremony.

Various portions of the ceremony, such as music and speeches, will be pre-recorded to shorten the ceremony’s length and reduce exposure to the microphone. For those students who are immune-compromised or have other health issues, the district will arrange for individual ceremonies on Sunday, May 31 at 1 p.m. at the stadium.

Gates went through the procedures for each ceremony, which will open for guests at 7:45 p.m. and will begin at 8:30 p.m. each night.

Dress code OK’d

By a 4-3 vote, the board narrowly approved the district’s updated dress code for 2020-2021, with no changes at the elementary level and certain relaxations at the secondary level.

Trustees Matt Sanders, Andrea Walton, Heather Prather and Gary Vineyard voted in favor, while trustees Tami Tobey, Bobby Soto and Carl Smith voted against.

Hemmle told trustees that no changes were made to facial hair or hair length for boys because of identification reasons, which relate to safety. The rule against earrings for boys was eased because of what Hemmle described as “a shift in acceptance,” although certain rings for males and females will stay off-limits for distraction reasons.

Nose piercings, primarily for females but also for males, were discussed, with studs deemed acceptable but hoop rings not. Vineyard made the motion that the secondary dress code be accepted and Prather seconded, with ear piercings and one nose piercing allowed for both sexes.

Other items

• Consent items approved included budget amendments; a contract for Student Information Systems software; new staff-to-staff devices at a cost of $65,000; bids for renovations to a pair of gymnasiums and the former athletic offices at MHS; several testing waivers related to COVID-19; and the setting of the district tax publication rate at .9664 per $100 valuation, which assistant superintendent Jim Norris said is the maximum rate and will likely wind up lower when the rate is set in August.

• An annual interlocal agreement with the city of Midlothian for school resource officers was considered but not acted upon. Student services administrator Dr. Al Hemmle told trustees that changes for 2020-2021 include a slight uptick in payroll costs to MISD; a new SRO for Dieterich Middle School; the leasing of a pair of police vehicles; and additional part-time SROs across the district.

• The board heard a detailed presentation from Norris on the 2020-2021 budget, which projects a raise in revenues across the board because of increasing enrollment. Norris said no new district buildings outside of what has already been slated are on the horizon for at least the next three to five years.

• Trustees reviewed the preliminary 2020-2021 board meeting calendar, with superintendent Ledbetter highlighting items to appear on each agenda while indicating the board calendar will be fluid.

• Students who do not have a previous physical on file will now have to obtain one under University Interscholastic League and Texas Education Agency guidelines that were updated this month, MISD athletic director Todd York told trustees. York said this mainly affects incoming seventh-graders and ninth-grade marching band members. The board followed suit, approving the clarification to policy.

• With the addition of Dieterich Middle School and a few new neighborhoods, an updated map designating 2-mile walk zones within MISD was approved.

• Following a lengthy executive session at the beginning of the evening, the board approved the hiring of Dr. Georgie Sweezy as principal at Mountain Peak Elementary.