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Rowan-Salisbury high schoolers get modified graduation amid pandemic

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

MT. ULLA — Cars filtered through the parking lot at West Rowan High School on Friday morning. It was mostly a steady stream, but every hour near the hour there was a small surge as the next group of graduates arrived.

There were four time slots for the freshly minted adults to show up based on last names. The graduates, usually with their families in the car, drove up to the stage, got out and walked across as their name was read and were handed their diploma by Principal Jamie Durant.

Superintendent Lynn Moody made an appearance at each ceremony, including West Rowan’s.

Some parts of the commencement looked like a normal graduation, but instead of a crowd in front of the stage there was an empty parking lot. The only other graduates who would see their peers take the ceremonial walk were a handful waiting for their turn in a small line of vehicles.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools is planning to hold a normal ceremony in the fall if it is able, but a number of students will not be able to attend, or are not sure if they will.

Kate Carter, a graduate from Carson High School who will be attending the University of Kentucky in the fall, pointed out the seven-hour drive she would have to make each direction to attend.

“I thought this was good,” Carter said, adding this gave students a bit of closure on high school and she felt it was more enjoyable than other graduations she had been to.

Carter said the ceremony special in its own way.

Rowan County Early College graduate Ceque’a Williams said a lot of students appreciated the district did something to give seniors some sense of recognition during the chaos of the past few months.

Williams already finished an associate’s degree and will be studying nursing at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She is not sure if she would attend the fall ceremony, and it depends on how much time she has after she starts at Lenoir-Rhyne

Suzanne Jenkins’ son Carter graduated from Salisbury High School, and she felt the school did the best they could with a bad situation.

“It was just very intimate,” Jenkins said.

Carter was able to see some of his friends, but not many, and some people stopped to take photos in front of the school.

There were photographers at the ceremonies to capture diplomas being handed off.

The in-person ceremonies are scheduled for Oct. 10, if the district is able to hold them. Whether schools will remain open next year or if COVID-19 will make a major resurgence this fall is uncertain, and the state released plans it may require of schools depending on the situation.

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