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Lei shops, parents frustrated as some schools place restrictions at graduation

Frustration is growing among parents and business owners after some schools implemented restrictions at graduation this year.
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 6:46 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 26, 2022 at 7:32 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Frustration is growing among parents and business owners after some schools implemented restrictions at graduation this year.

A limited number of guests are allowed to attend and give lei.

Some say it’s putting a burden on those who rely on selling lei for a living.

Jaynina Gomes owns a candy and lei shop called Obachan’s in Wailuku. She started prepping for graduation months ago.

“Everybody was excited that we’d have graduations,” Gomes said. “We made hundreds of lei … only to be told that it wasn’t going to happen.”

Last week, Baldwin High School’s principal rolled back his decision on not allowing lei giving to now allowing it for six special guests.

Gomes, who also has a senior at Baldwin this year, said she is unsure what that means for her business.

“It really kind of brings our business to a halt because I don’t know how much to prepare for,” said Gomes, “And it just doesn’t make sense when you have places like luau that give lei and you’re like, well, if you can give a lei, why can’t we have people giving lei?”

In Kaneohe, parents are upset that Castle High School will not being having a traditional lei giving ceremony open to the public.

“We know that there are other schools that are allowing 10 plus family members to come in. They’re allowing a lei giving ceremony afterwards. So, for me and the other parents at Castle High School, we just question why other schools can? Why not Castle?” said Roxy Perez, who started an online petition.

The petition states no lei giving is allowed, however the school’s principal states lei giving is allowed, but only four guests per graduate can participate.

“Although alternative venues were considered during the planning process, it is important to students that graduation is held at CHS, as is tradition. Due to the size of the venue and limited capacity, the graduation committee will also include a live, virtual option available the day of for anyone unable to attend. Lei giving is included at the end of the ceremony for all participants and invited guests,” said Bernadette Tyrell.

The state Department of Education said guidance on safety protocols for commencement ceremonies was designed to provide schools with flexibility as they continue to monitor COVID-19 conditions.

Two years ago, parents planned a convoy for Castle High School graduates when their graduation was cancelled.

Parents promise to have something special again this year.

“It’s for the kids and the community is willing to pull together to figure it out,” said Relda Enos. “When the school says no, here we are being the superheroes.”

Perez and Enos encourage Castle High School students and parents to check their social media pages for updates on the special event planned seniors this year.

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