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District's administrators navigate hassles, grads turn tassels

Graduation 2020 is set.

PITTSBORO — Resilient students in Chatham County Schools have been buoyed by district personnel who brainstormed to land on a meaningful way to honor the class of 2020, determined to redeem time and opportunities interrupted by COVID-19. 

As a former high school teacher and principal, commencement has always been an exciting and special time,” Chatham County Schools Superintendent Dr. Derrick D. Jordan said. “Despite the challenges that have come along with COVID-19, I am pleased that we will still be able to celebrate our graduates in a memorable way. We are proud of them, and they deserve it!” 

Guided by survey data based on input from the school system’s 12th-grade students, parents and guardians, graduating seniors will have an opportunity to put on their caps and gowns and walk individually across stages in June to receive the diplomas they earned. Five guests may join each graduate at ceremonies that will be professionally recorded on video and edited for presentation on digital platforms available to the general public. Professional photographers will take pictures of students with their diplomas. Guests will have opportunities for informal photos of the graduates.

The events at Northwood High School will look different on account the much larger graduating class. Students will receive their diplomas while their guests watch from vehicles.  

High school graduation marks a significant educational accomplishment for each student. More importantly, graduation is personal, emotional and interactive, as the children that family and friends have always known move proudly across the stage as emerging young adults,” said Dr. Kelly Batten, the district’s executive director of secondary education and Career and Technical Education. “Even during this time of unprecedented public health concern, it was important to find nontraditional methods to honor this important milestone for the class of 2020 and their families. Feedback from 12th-grade students and families assisted us in developing an opportunity to honor our graduates within the current guidance from state and local health officials.”

To limit the spread of COVID-19, all participants and guests will be guided to adhere to public health protocols, such as social distancing and wearing facemasks. 

The district’s graduation plans were conceptualized and formed with safety in mind, Jordan said. 

Most who participated in the district’s graduation survey indicated the desire to delay traditional commencement exercises in order to allow additional time for restrictions on mass gatherings and social distancing to possibly ease. The modified ceremonies ensure a graduation experience for the school system’s class of 2020, Jordan explained.

Published June 2, 2020