High School Seniors Still Holding Out Hope For In-Person Graduation Ceremonies
Tens of thousands of seniors across North Carolina are wrapping up the end of their high school careers. It’s a lot different than they expected, as annual processions for their diplomas have been put on hold because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Despite the uncertainty, districts are trying to find ways to honor students' milestones.
There have been Instagram parties, parades in front of student’s houses, signs posted in yards and even the dimming of stadium lights to celebrate their hard work. Some schools are still issuing caps and gowns.
Seventeen-year-old Caleb Riggins is a senior at East Forsyth High School in Winston-Salem. He misses hanging out with his friends the most. Last year, he was a Junior Marshal for his school’s graduation ceremony and has been looking forward to this moment.
“Losing prom was pretty rough, graduation being in question too as well. I mean it’s kind of hard to see everything we’ve expected, everything we’ve hoped for disappear I guess. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Riggins.
North Carolina Public Schools are closed for the remainder of the academic year, so districts are deciding if in-person graduation ceremonies will be rescheduled for the summer or fall. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools has set up a task force that includes students and parents to determine how it will proceed. The district expects to announce its plan late next week.
Guilford County Schools officials say they are also working on ways to recognize the Class of 2020 and expect an announcement soon on what graduation will look like.
As for Riggins, he is now looking forward to beginning his college career. He plans to attend NC State in the fall. He says although seniors missed out on a lot this year, they’ll always have memories to cherish.
“I know it’s unexpected and definitely not what we wanted, but at the end of the day, it’s the situation we face and if this isolation is helping protect other people then that’s what matters,” adds Riggins.
In late March, the North Carolina Board of Education approved a grading policy to enable high school seniors to graduate on time. It says local schools and districts cannot require students to earn any more than the state’s minimum of 22 credits in order to graduate. Many school districts have set graduation requirements that exceed the state minimum, according to a press release from the state.
Seniors will receive grades for fall courses — yearlong and semester — and fall grades will count in students’ grade point averages. For spring courses, students will receive a designation of pass or withdraw, if they were failing, as of their performance on March 13, the last day before schools were closed.
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