Team Chesterfield Class of 2020 and families,
Graduation is an annual rite of passage for high school seniors – an opportunity to celebrate 13 years’ worth of friendships, hard work and amazing academic accomplishments with family and staff members.
For weeks, Chesterfield County Public Schools leaders held out hope that we would be able to hold an in-person graduation in early August; however, it no longer seems feasible to pin our hopes on that based on projected timelines for the phased reopening of Virginia. It pains the School Board and me that current extraordinary circumstances caused by COVID-19 prevent us this year from giving these 4,500 young people the traditional commencement ceremony we are accustomed to providing.
My leadership team and I have spent the past several weeks discussing what a proper 2020 high school graduation could look like given current constraints. We considered many different options, and appreciate those students and parents who shared their own ideas, too. There were only a few concepts, however, that could be reasonably accomplished while remaining in compliance with current social distancing guidance and crowd-size restrictions.
Within the next month, Chesterfield County Public Schools will offer two opportunities (one private, one public) to honor and celebrate the Class of 2020:
Each high school will welcome individual 2020 graduates and up to five family members for the in-person awarding of the graduate’s high school diploma.
This event will take place in the school’s auditorium over the course of a number of days. Dressed in a cap and gown, each graduate will hear their name called, walk across the stage to receive their diploma and be congratulated by the school’s principal. Families may take photographs and/or video of this individual student opportunity. A separate area also will be established outside of the auditorium for family photos. (Unfortunately, the school division will not be able to provide a contracted photographer at this event since all 11 graduations will occur at the same time.)
High schools will schedule these opportunities with individual families. Stay tuned for more information from your school’s principal.
All appropriate social distancing measures will be taken, including the use of multiple staging areas leading into the school auditorium. Guests are expected to wear facial coverings. Please make sure that you arrive at the school on time for your scheduled appointment, as there may not be an opportunity to fit your graduate back into the schedule.
Chesterfield County Public Schools will produce an official virtual graduation ceremony for each high school.
Aired on the school division’s TV channels (Verizon 26 and Comcast 96), social media outlets and available on the school division’s website, these taped ceremonies will include graduation remarks and remembrances from the senior class president (or another Class of 2020 member), principal, Superintendent and School Board member. Each school’s valedictorian and salutatorian will be acknowledged, as will other senior class accomplishments. Following the remarks, each member of the Class of 2020 will be recognized via their senior portrait and the calling of their name during the “presentation of diplomas.”
Schools will release virtual graduation ceremony dates soon. We appreciate our partners at Southside Church for allowing us to use their facility for taping.
Please be looking for information from individual schools about submitting photos for those graduates for whom we do not already have a yearbook portrait.
Without a doubt, the Class of 2020 made many unique, positive contributions during the years while attending our schools. The excellence they demonstrated in classrooms, in the arts, in athletics, in student leadership, and through service projects will have a lasting impact on our school division, community and beyond.
From seeing our graduates in the classroom actively engaged in learning, performing amazing musical routines, succeeding in the field and on the court and or working selflessly with service projects like raising funds for those in need or tutoring younger children, they never ceased to amaze me with how wonderful, compassionate and creative they could be.
As I noted shortly after our schools were closed in mid-March, the Class of 2020 has done some incredible things as students. Based on the resiliency and strength we have seen during the past two months, our future is in great hands.
We look forward to celebrating you and your accomplishments in the coming weeks!
Dr. Merv Daugherty