WILMINGTON — When plans for drive-in graduation ceremonies were announced for seniors at New Hanover County Schools, parents (and some students) pushed back against the decision made by the school board. Despite the heavy resistance and calls for a social-distancing graduation, it appears the schools are planning on moving forward with their plans for drive-in graduations.
“Increased public health and safety measures are being put in place for New Hanover County Schools drive-in graduation ceremonies during the week of June 15-19, 2020. Ceremonies will be held at Cape Fear Community College North Campus,” according to a press release from the school system.
While many parents have balked at the idea of a drive-in ceremony, healthcare professionals are apparently pleased with the decision.
“NHCS leadership and the graduation task forces that recommended the current graduation plan should be commended for their thoroughness,” Dr. West Paul, Chief Clinical Officer, New Hanover Regional Medical Center said. “It really shows a clear understanding of what we face, and balances desires to honor students while preventing harm.”
Many have argued that other school systems across the state have managed to hold in-person, but socially distant graduations, so why can’t New Hanover County do the same?
“Regardless of whether state guidance supported in-person graduation events, it would not be the right decision for New Hanover County Schools to hold in-person graduation ceremonies at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Philip Brown, Chief Physician Executive at New Hanover Regional Medical Center said. “COVID-19 continues to be present in our state and in the Cape Fear region. As a result of recent Memorial Day crowds, hospital algorithms project that cases will continue to rise. It would not be safe for New Hanover County Schools to hold graduations in person at this time.”
Attendees are being asked to remain in their vehicles at all times while at the ceremony (which can be left running to provide air conditioning during the event).
Students will be called out of their cars in order to get their diplomas and walk across the stage.
“Students are asked to follow law enforcement direction in exiting their vehicles to approach the stage. They should utilize automatic hand sanitizing stations available at stage entry and exit ramps, wear masks, and practice social distancing by maintaining six-foot distancing when outside their vehicles. Masks will be provided at the main entrance for students who don’t have their own masks,” according to the release.
While it is traditional for officials to shake each student’s hand when they receive their diploma, things will be a bit different this year.
“NHCS staff on stage handing out diploma covers and diplomas will be wearing protective gloves and masks at all times. There will be no handshakes when receiving diplomas and students will pose for their portrait as they exit the stage and pick up their diploma so they may remove their mask for the photo,” according to the release.
For those high-risk individuals, the school system is streaming the ceremonies online and encourages those who cannot make it in-person to watch at NHCS-TV Youtube.