ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — As high school seniors graduate in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's been up to individual school districts how they choose to handle graduation ceremonies – whether through virtual events, with limited groups walking across a stage one a time, students having their own limited ceremony with their families, or any number of options.
Members of Crosslink Community Church gathered for an Easter Sunday service at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.
On Wednesday, Rockingham County Public Schools announced that they'll be conducting their 2020 graduation ceremonies as drive-in events at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.
According to a statement released by Superintendent Dr. Oskar Scheikl, their district recently created a survey asking seniors feedback on alternative graduation options once it was clear that traditional in-person ceremonies would not be possible.
According to Dr. Scheikl, the majority of seniors in all four high schools responded by picking the option of a "drive-in" ceremony.
So that's what the county will be doing.
On June 5 and 6, Rockingham County plans to hold drive-in ceremonies for each of the county's four high schools and Massanutten Technical Center.
The schedule will look like this:
• Friday, June 5 at 2pm - Massanutten Technical Center
• Friday, June 5 at 6pm - Spotswood High School
• Saturday, June 6 at 10am - Turner Ashby High School
• Saturday, June 6 at 2pm - Broadway High School
• Saturday, June 6 at 6pm - East Rockingham High School
All of the ceremonies will be at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.
Due to limited parking available at the fairgrounds, each senior is allowed a maximum of three vehicles for family members at the ceremonies. Families can contact their schools to request additional parking passes if there are extenuating circumstances beyond simply wanting more relatives to attend.
Vehicles are limited to standard size vehicles that fit in typical parking spaces – so no, an RV won't count.
How the ceremonies will work
According to Dr. Scheikl, in the parking lot of the fairgrounds, they will have a stage and video board set up on end of the parking area, and the lot will be divided into two sections. The first will be reserved for cars in which seniors are riding, located directly in front of the stage.
The second, behind the seniors' section, is where additional cars for audience members will park.
Since no attendees will leave their cars, there will be no designated handicapped parking spots.
The stage will be equipped with a sound system and the entire ceremony will be broadcast over FM radio for people to tune in through their car radio.
Ceremonies will also be streamed online.
Throughout each ceremony, everyone in attendance is asked to stay inside their vehicle. A small number of people will be onstage, socially distanced, including the principal and anyone speaking during the ceremony. When it's time to hand out diplomas, students, in groups of 10 or less, whill be invited to leave their vehicles and line up beside the stage, six feet apart. When a student’s name is called, he/she will walk across the stage, pick up the diploma from a table and return to their car.
At the end of the ceremony, attendants will direct vehicles to leave the fairgrounds to make way for the next ceremony.
No one is to get out of their cars to greet one another or take pictures.
A professional photographer will take a picture of each graduate with his/her diploma. A copy of this picture will be provided to each graduate, free of charge.
The overall plan
"It is our intention to provide a meaningful and memorable graduation experience for our seniors while maintaining social distancing and respecting all safety guidelines," said Dr. Oskar Scheik. "We hope this event will allow seniors to be “together” to celebrate the conclusion of their high school experience. Please be on the lookout for additional information from the school principal about specific details regarding the graduation event."
Each school will be sending out more details to families in the days to come.