Football field split between two counties forces graduation on visitor’s side

Updated: May. 18, 2020 at 5:12 PM CDT
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ACKERLY, Texas (KCBD) - Sands CISD might have been at home, but the district was forced to graduate on the visitor’s side of its football field, due to TEA COVID-19 guidelines. That side of the field is in Martin County, while Dawson County makes up the other half.

“It just so happened everything just kind of fell into place,” Superintendent Wayne Henderson said. “It was actually pretty cool and the kids enjoyed it.”

The consolidated school district is in Ackerly, which sits in the corner of two counties. According to guidance for graduation from the Texas Education Agency, outdoor graduations can only be held in counties with five or less cases of COVID-19 before May 29.

“We felt like those kids needed that opportunity,” Henderson said. “They had been through so much. I just didn’t want to do a virtual one. We didn’t really want to wait three weeks for them to graduate. It takes the excitement out of it, you know. So, we just felt like as a team here that if we could get it done, we’d get it done. They were all for it.”

At the point of planning the graduation there were only three cases of Coronavirus in Martin County. Dawson County had confirmed more than 30.

“We moved to the south side because it’s like a glitch in the system, so to speak,” Henderson said. “It just so happened that it would be in compliance. I called the county judge in Martin County. He signed off on it. He agreed that there were only three cases, it was under five and that we can move forward. So, that’s what we did.”

Henderson said he first realized the county line went through the school property when he moved to the district as the football coach. Living in district housing, he went to Dawson County to take care of tax business and vehicle registrations. He was told he didn’t live in the county.

Only seven seniors graduated on May 15 from the small district. The class agreed they would hold the early graduation. But, only five guests of each graduate could sit in the stands. Henderson said others were allowed in their vehicles and could tune into a radio broadcast. But, the weather had an impact.

“We’re sitting around all day long waiting for it to rain and sure enough, about six o’clock starts raining and wind blowing,” Henderson said.

After overcoming the weather delay and technical difficulties, the graduates were determined to receive their diplomas.

“I told the kids this fit in perfectly with what we’re doing,” Henderson said. “Finishing out the year on an odd note, why would it be any different than your graduation going this way. But, they will always have this to talk about.”

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