Largest school systems in Central Va. announce 2021 graduation plans

Richmond Public Schools to receive update on Monday at board meeting

Largest school systems in Central Va. announce 2021 graduation plans
The four major school systems in Central Virginia have announced outdoor 2021 graduation plans. (Source: Pixabay)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - With eased restrictions in place for graduation ceremonies, many local school systems are announcing how they plan to celebrate the class of 2021, in all cases, outdoors.

These plans come after Governor Ralph Northam announced on March 17 schools can hold in-door ceremonies as long as there or no more than 500 people or 30% capacity, whichever is less. Ceremonies can be held outdoors with up to 5,000 people or 30% capacity, whichever is less.

On Monday, the school board for Richmond Public Schools will receive an update on its plan for graduation.

Per the school board agenda, RPS does plan to hold in-person graduations and is working to secure an outdoor location for all schools.

“Given the event will be in mid-June (dates to be confirmed shortly based on venue availability), we will consider morning and evening ceremony times to avoid the heat,” the document stated.

“Many of them have overcome great adversity to be able to pull through and achieve this graduation,” said Stephanie Lynch, Head of the Education and Human Services Committee for the city of Richmond.

A specific number of guest tickets will be issued, however, RPS plans to livestream the ceremonies for any students and families who do not want to attend the in-person event.

“I think it’s going to be something that looks a lot more like, feels a lot more like, sounds a lot more like normalcy and I couldn’t be more excited about it,” said 4th District RPS board member Jonathan Young.

More information is expected to be released Monday night.

On April 19, Hanover County Public Schools announced it will hold 2021 graduation ceremonies at the Meadow Event Park in Doswell on June 18 and June 19.

On April 19, Hanover County Public Schools announced it will hold 2021 graduation ceremonies at the Meadow Event Park in Doswell on June 18 and June 19.

“We will hold two outdoor ceremonies each day in the Festival Loop (one in the morning and one in the early afternoon) to celebrate our tremendous graduates and maximize the number of guests who may attend,” the school system said.

For Hanover’s graduation ceremonies, four guests per graduate will be allowed to attend the ceremony; they will be livestreamed as well for those unable to attend.

Typically, the school system has held ceremonies at the Siegel Center, but currently indoor facilities are limited to 500 people, which would restrict the number of guests allowed.

“Holding the ceremonies outside at the Meadow Event Park allows us to welcome all of our graduates and accommodate more guests at each ceremony than what would have been possible at each school’s football stadium, while also providing a safe environment,” the school system said. “We recognize that the number of guests is fewer than what is normally allowed at graduation. In these uncertain times, however, we are pleased to have crafted a plan that will allow our students to graduate together in front of as many friends and family as possible under the state’s current restrictions.”

Students will sit in “pods” with their guests during the ceremony. The pods will be spaced 10 feet apart.

Henrico County Public Schools plans to hold its 2021 graduation ceremonies at the Richmond Raceway for a second year in a row.

“Bringing everyone in the senior class together in one large venue is just a tremendous achievement for this county,” said HCPS spokesman Andy Jenks.

Traditional graduation ceremonies will return for Henrico seniors, following a unique experience at the raceway last year with a “Final Victory Lap.”

“That was a year ago, times were different then and we’ve learned how to do new things and how to do them safely; conditions are different now than they were a year ago,” said HCPS spokesman Andy Jenks. “We’ve heard and we know our students and families want these ceremonies.”

From June 14-17, HCPS will hold graduation ceremonies at the raceway for its nine high schools and two Advanced Career Education Centers (Hermitage & Highland Springs); June 18 is a rain date. The ceremony for the Academy at Virginia Randolph will be at the school’s recreation area on June 9.

“The students will process as a class from beneath the grandstands, walk past friends and family in the grandstands and descend to a grassy seating area just across the track,” HCPS said. “Students will remain 6 feet apart and seats will be spaced accordingly. As is traditional, students will ascend a stage and accept their diplomas.”

Henrico schools is allowing four tickets per graduate and each student’s group will sit together as a pod in the raceway’s grandstands, separated from other groups by 6 feet.

“It’s not just enough about having a ceremony, it’s having a ceremony with enough family and friends per graduate to join together,” Jenks said. “So, you have to do all that physical distancing math to make it work and remain in compliance with Virginia’s rules for outdoor ceremonies.”

Graduations will also be livestreamed for family and friends unable to attend.

On April 30, Chesterfield County Schools announced it will hold outdoors graduation ceremonies for the class of 2021 on each of the high school football fields.

In a message sent to parents, the Chesterfield County Public School (CCPS) said that due to current indoor crowd-size restrictions, it would not be able to hold indoor graduations at local universities.

“Having not been able to find a suitable outdoor venue large enough for the number of days necessary to hold 11 schools’ worth of graduations in early June, our high school principals have suggested returning to our roots and hosting graduations in their own football stadiums,” the message said.

According to CCPS, these outdoor graduation ceremonies on the football fields will allow groups of 150-200 seniors to graduate at the same time.

Students will be socially distanced along with families who plan to attend; four guests are allowed per graduate.

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