Some Durham students, parents not happy with drive-thru graduation proposal

Coronavirus

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The coronavirus pandemic has placed a damper on graduation plans for high school seniors across the Triangle. Officials with Durham Public Schools recently announced they will be holding either drive-in or drive-thru graduation ceremonies at either the high schools or Southpoint Mall.

This plan is not sitting well with some students and parents.

Caitlyn Shanahan attends Durham School of the Arts. The school’s plan is to hold a drive-thru ceremony in June. During such a ceremony, students will remain in the car and they will drive up to get their diploma. It is up to the school whether students can get out of the car.

Shanahan is not happy with the idea.

“It’s kind of like driving up to McDonald’s and getting fries,” Shanahan said. “It’s disappointing because you would think after like 13 years of working really hard, we would get some sort of better recognition.”

Caitlyn’s mother, Hillary Ingram, was angry when she heard about the plans.

“I couldn’t believe that we resorted to a drive-thru graduation,” Ingram said.

Ingram decided to start an online petition that called for the district to come up with a plan for a more “reasonable” graduation for the seniors.

So far, more than 1,200 other parents have signed it.

One suggestion is to postpone the graduation until late summer when they can hopefully have in-person graduations outdoors.

“Malls are open and Walmart has been open this whole entire time,” Ingram said. “I just can’t understand why an outdoor graduation can’t also be allowed with the same protocols that we have now.”

Chip Sudderth, spokesperson for Durham Public Schools, said the district made the safest plans for each high school under the circumstances.

“We don’t know at this time when the restrictions on mass gatherings are going to be lifted,” Sudderth said. “We needed to provide our students with the best possible graduation ceremony at the time of their graduation.”

However, Shanahan said she is still holding out hope that the district will change its mind.

“I feel like we’ve all worked hard to get where we are, and I just feel like it should be looked upon as, like, something special,” Shanahan said. “I don’t really see us driving up to get our diploma and leaving as something special.”

Officials with Wake County Schools have said that they will hold in-person high school graduations in a modified form. Cumberland County schools are also planning on allowing students to walk across the stage in July.

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