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Nearby districts make new plans to honor seniors in lieu of traditional graduation ceremonies

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — School districts across the country are coming up with alternative ways to honor graduating high school seniors this year due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

All of the high schools in Rowan-Salisbury schools will be hosting virtual celebrations on May 22, the original date for commencement ceremonies, showcasing the graduating classes who will not have in-person ceremonies at the normal time. RSS also has promised in-person ceremonies when the district is able to host them.

Kannapolis City Schools has created a unique plan for its own graduation ceremony. The district’s lone high school, A.L. Brown, is graduating its 100th class of seniors this year, and the school has come up with a plan for a modified graduation ceremony that should help the students miss out on as little as possible compared to a normal year.

A.L. Brown Principal Angelo DelliSanti said the school heard about options like parades, 100% virtual ceremonies and small private schools being able to host relatively standard ceremonies, but A.L. Brown got creative.

The original graduation was planned for May 30, and the school is bringing in speakers on May 21 to be filmed, then splitting when graduates come through the auditorium between May 22 and May 23. The graduates will be spaced 75 seconds apart, and there will never be too many in the room, DelliSanti said. Everyone will be wearing staff-made Kelly green masks, which is the school’s color.

DelliSanti said traditionally the principal would shake with the right hand while passing off the diploma with the left, but this year the school will forego the handshakes. Students will have videos and photos taken during the ceremony.

On May 30, the school will post the combined ceremony at 9 a.m., and ask them to watch the ceremony in their caps and gowns. The students are being asked to record and post videos of themselves changing their tassels and throwing their hats with the hashtag #beawonder

“One thing that we really considered at the forefront of this is equity and access,” DelliSanti said, adding if the ceremony was pushed to the summer or fall not every student would be able to attend. Some students will be joining the military, for instance.

Nearby districts have come up with other plans. Cabarrus County Schools will hold drive-in ceremonies at Charlotte Motor Speedway on June 12 and 13.

The graduates will all drive across the finish line in their vehicles and be handed their diplomas without getting out of the vehicles. Each graduate is allowed a single, personal vehicle which can be filled with friends and family.

Speedway TV, the venue’s jumbotron, will show graduate photos during the ceremony.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools will hand out diplomas via drive-thru as well, but it will stream a virtual ceremony before the pickup.

The ceremony will include the usual graduation fare: speeches by valedictorians, salutatorians and featured speakers.

CMS also plans on hosting in-person ceremonies in the fall.

Stanly County Schools is planning to hold in-person ceremonies on Aug. 1, and Iredell-Statesville Schools is planning the same. Iredell-Statesville Schools will also virtual celebrations on the original graduation dates.

In April, Davie County Schools seniors received some recognition during a drive-thru pick up for cap and gowns, being awarded Chick-fil-A sandwiches and graduation yard signs. Rowan-Salisbury high schools also distributed yard signs to its seniors to let neighbors know about their achievements.

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