Last week, the district announced an alternative drive-in graduation plan for its seniors. After hearing concerns from some parents and students, the Wayne County Board of Education began holding a number of meetings to discuss the possibilities for how schools may be able to hold more traditional on-field graduations to help students bring closure to their high school experience.
As part of the conversation, the Board considered Executive Order 141 which went into effect last Friday at 5:00 PM, which exempts educational institutions of mass gathering requirements. Board members also considered a follow-up FAQ from the Governor’s Office, which stated that “the Governor’s Office and the NC Department of Health and Human Services strongly recommend” alternative forms of graduation, but ultimately left final decisions regarding graduations to the local board of education and superintendent.
Per the Board’s request, the district polled its 1,261 graduating seniors and their families to determine their graduation preferences. Over 80% of the respondents favored on-field graduations with the understanding that these types of events are not being recommended at this time. After much discussion and consideration, the Wayne County Board of Education canceled the district’s alternative graduation plan and directed schools to begin making plans to hold on-field, more traditional graduation ceremonies.
No event dates have been set, though the Board is hoping all of the events can be held by the end of June. Next week, district personnel will begin working with high school principals and their ceremony planning teams to assess their resources and capacities for safely holding these types of events. The district will also work with local health officials and law enforcement agencies in finalizing plans.
Before concluding its ongoing discussions about graduations, the Board of Education took the following actions for schools to help promote health and safety at their events:
- Social distancing will occur with 6-foot spacing between graduates and between groups of guests
- Due to capacity limitations of stadium seating with social distancing, seniors will be limited to two tickets for guests
- All seniors and guests must wear a mask or face-covering upon entrance to the ceremony, but can remove the mask or face covering once seated
- All seniors and guests will be required to complete a waiver of liability to attend a ceremony
To be inclusive, the board also asked the schools to develop alternative graduation activities for students who may be uncomfortable or unable to attend a more traditional on-field graduation ceremony. Events will also be streamed live.