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High schools announce graduation plan for the Class of 2020

Gaston County Schools will provide seniors in the Class of 2020 an opportunity to cross the graduation stage to receive their diploma, but the format will be different than a traditional ceremony because of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The principals from the county’s 11 traditional high schools – Ashbrook, Bessemer City, Cherryville, Stuart W. Cramer, East Gaston, Forestview, Gaston Early College, Highland, Hunter Huss, North Gaston, and South Point – as well as the principals of Webb Street School and Warlick Academy came together to create a graduation plan that aligns with the results of a survey taken by approximately 2,500 students, employees, parents, and others.  The plan also meets social distancing expectations and health and safety guidelines.  

The survey participants were asked to rank the most important aspects of a graduation ceremony.  They identified the following as top priorities: seniors being able to wear their cap and gown; seniors being able to walk across the stage to receive their diploma; and seniors being able to have family/close friends in attendance.

“Our principals did an excellent job of taking the survey results into consideration and coming up with a plan that incorporates what our seniors believe are key to making their graduation as meaningful as possible,” said Dr. Cristi Bostic, executive director for high schools.  “We want to thank everyone who completed the survey and provided their input.  It has been very helpful as our high school principals have worked to develop ways to recognize, honor, and celebrate the Class of 2020.”

Beginning June 1, each high school will schedule various times for seniors to participate in graduation.  In a limited capacity, students will come to the school auditorium or gymnasium, walk across the stage individually when their name is called, receive their diploma from the principal, and have a photograph taken.  Each student can have as many as eight family members/friends watching from the audience.  Family members will exit the auditorium or gymnasium once their student walks across the stage.

The format adheres to social distancing guidelines and large gathering restrictions based on guidance for graduation from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of the Governor.

“While all of us are disappointed that we cannot hold a traditional graduation ceremony for our seniors, we believe the plan for our high schools is a good alternative that will put the Class of 2020 in the spotlight while following the health restrictions that are in place because of the coronavirus,” said Gary Ford, principal of South Point High School in Belmont.  “We are so proud of our seniors, and we hope everyone in the community will find a way to join us in saluting the Class of 2020 and bringing attention to their many outstanding accomplishments.”

In addition to the plan that makes it possible for seniors to graduate in person, each school will produce a special video that features congratulatory remarks, speeches by members of the senior class, a slideshow of pictures, etc. to celebrate the Class of 2020.  The video will premiere on the school’s Facebook page or YouTube channel on Saturday, June 13, which is graduation day for Gaston County Schools.

The principals will provide information to seniors about their high school graduation schedule, logistics, and procedures for conducting the in-person presentation of diplomas.