SNOW HILL – While they might not be walking across the stage in the traditional manner, local high school seniors will be celebrated with graduation events this month.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, school system officials were forced to create unique events to celebrate seniors. Worcester County’s graduates will be invited into school one by one to walk across the stage and get a commencement photo. They’ll also be honored with parades in Ocean City, Snow Hill and Pocomoke.
“We are giving our seniors the best we can give them right now,” said Annette Wallace, the school system’s chief operating officer and academic officer for grades 9-12.
While Superintendent Lou Taylor said from the start that traditional graduation ceremonies would be held once it was safe to do so, even if it is months before large gatherings can take place, the school system also formed a committee to focus on senior celebrations. Community members made it clear they wanted the class of 2020 recognized, as more than 700 signed an online petition calling for outdoor parades or ceremonies—not a virtual graduation—to honor seniors.
Wallace said this week officials understood how important it was to honor seniors now, before they embarked for positions in the military, college or workforce. She acknowledged that they’d missed so much since schools were closed in March.
“A lot of things have already been ripped away from them,” she said. “We felt compelled to celebrate somehow now.”
The class of 2020 commencement committee put together by Taylor, which included principals and each high school’s graduation planning committees, was broken down into smaller groups so representatives of each high school could decide what was best for their community. They’ve each made plans for seniors at Stephen Decatur, Pocomoke and Snow Hill high schools.
Wallace said each school would invite seniors and their family members—in groups of less than 10—into the building so the graduate can get their diploma from the principal.
“There will be an opportunity for the family to see that moment,” Wallace said.
At each school, a video will be put together of the students getting their diplomas. A watch party will be held and the video will be provided to each graduate.
In addition, each high school is hosting a parade to honor graduates. Stephen Decatur will host a parade on the Boardwalk May 27 at 5:30 p.m. Pocomoke will host a parade May 29 at 7 p.m. and Snow Hill will host a parade June 4 at 5 p.m.
Wallace said that celebratory events would also be held in the future once it was safe to hold large gatherings.
“We can’t say when that’s going to be,” she said.
She’s pleased with the committee’s efforts to honor seniors in the midst of the current health crisis.
“It’s not what any of us want,” she said. “All of us want a traditional commencement ceremony.”
She reminds students that the situation will eventually pass.
“Just think, you’re going to have a great story to tell your kids,” she said.