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Wake, Durham schools nix traditional 2020 graduations

Wake and Durham County school leaders said Friday they're cancelling large-scale, in-person graduation ceremonies this spring, but they're planning other ways to celebrate graduating seniors.

Posted Updated

Laura Leslie
, WRAL Capitol Bureau chief
RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County schools leaders said Friday they're cancelling large-scale in-person graduation ceremonies this spring, but they're looking for other ways to celebrate graduating seniors.

Board of Education Chairman Keith Sutton had said for weeks he was hoping to find some way to preserve the graduation experience, but says it's just not safe at this point.

Sutton says school leaders are hoping to do "something in June for our seniors," but says schools may find different ways to customize "a graduation experience" for their students within district-level guidelines.

Durham Public Schools announced later Friday that it too will cancel traditional graduation ceremonies. DPS officials said each school has chosen between a drive-in celebration at the Streets at Southpoint, a drive-through ceremony, or a combination virtual and drive-through ceremony.

Starting early

The coronavirus relief bills signed into state law this week allow schools to start the 2020-2021 school year on August 17th, a week earlier than usual.

WCPSS Superintendent Cathy Moore said Wake Schools will start on that date. But she said it's still uncertain what that will look like. She said students should expect social distancing, which could mean a limit on the number of students in a classroom or a school at any given time.

Moore said online learning may play a greater role next school year. The recently passed laws require schools to plan for at least 5 days of online learning in the coming school year, but doesn't specify where they should fall in the school year calendar.

Pandemic and athletics

Moore acknowledged the disappointment the pandemic closures have brought to many students, including athletes whose winter championships and spring seasons were cancelled.

Saying she understands those decisions were made in the interest of public health, Moore said district leaders nonetheless "share your sadness and bitterness."

Moore said it's unclear at this point how the pandemic will affect athletics next school year, but called it "an integral part of the school experience."


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