By Abi Cole
Leicester – Even if they have to wait a couple of months for a traditional graduation, Class of 2020 Seniors have not given up on their hopes of a hallmark end to their high school careers. Some graduates are not satisfied with a virtual commencement to mark the conclusion of their thirteen-year wait to walk across a stage. Rumors of a protest swirled amongst disgruntled seniors and families last week, with plans to protest in front of Clyde A. Erwin High on Saturday which never materialized.
Last week, the Tribune told you about Clyde A. Erwin High Senior Hannah Honeycutt started a petition on change.org for Buncombe County Schools to deliver on thirteen-year promises of in-person graduations for the class of 2020. The petition, True Graduation for 2020 Seniors, has over 1,300 signatures since May 10 backing Honeycutt’s outcry that virtual graduations do not properly honor the hardworking graduates. “The Class of 2020 has worked too hard for 13 years to hear their name called over a computer and pick up their diploma at a different time with no fellow students present, says Honneycutt.
The petition urges Buncombe County Schools to postpone decisions on graduation until later in the summer, with the possibility that COVID-19 outbreak may improve by July or August. One supporter claimed, “It is way too early to make this type of decision and plenty of alternatives and outdoor spaces available on the campus to have a safe and successful graduation ceremony for these young adults who have worked for the past 13 years for this moment in their life. They have already been robbed of their prom, banquets, athletics and time with their classmates, friends and teachers. Do not take this from them too.”
Director of Communications Stacia Harris issued a statement on behalf of Buncombe County Schools on the outcome of 2020 graduation. “We have devised a plan to ensure that we maintain the dignity of graduation, honor all of our 2020 graduates for their 13 years of hard work as students, and prioritize the health and safety of our school community” says Buncombe County Schools. BCS’ decision to suspend in-person graduations is in line with caution from the Center for Disease Control that large gatherings pose a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission. Alternatively, virtual ceremonies will be held. Graduates will be recognized in a virtual ceremony to premiere on each school’s website and social media pages. Following the ceremony, the school will schedule a diploma pick-up and a cap and gown photo opportunity at a staged area on campus.
Still, petition signers are urging that the students, “Need the closure to this chapter of their lives.” Buncombe County Schools expects each school to organize reunion events for the class of 2020 during the 2020-21 school year in accordance with any COVID-19 protocols that may be in place at the time.