Central NC students looking forward to in-person graduation ceremonies

Local News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Like most students, James DeBerry didn’t get the senior year he wanted.

“Not many can say they’ve gone through a year like this. From all past generations up to this one,” said DeBerry, who attends Hillside High School in Durham.

After a challenging year, DeBerry is hoping he and his classmates will at least have a proper graduation.

“After all we’ve been through, I believe we deserve the best that we can get,” he explained.

“Really, I’m just looking for something that keeps us all safe while also embodying the spirit of ‘Hey, we made it, we pushed through all the struggles,’ especially during this senior year,” he said.

Durham Public Schools have not finalized plans for graduation ceremonies. A spokesperson for DPS told CBS 17 that the district is reviewing all options.

But many school districts in the Triangle have already decided to hold in-person graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2021 this spring.

Wake County Public Schools will allow high schools to host in-person ceremonies on school campuses. Details about specific locations, social distancing and safety efforts have not been released yet.

To comply with capacity limits and social distancing requirements, Cumberland County Schools plan to hold a series of commencement ceremonies at the Crown Coliseum May 21-29.

Seniors in Johnston County Public Schools can choose between attending an in-person graduation ceremony at their school on Friday, May 28, or a drive-thru ceremony on Tuesday, June 1. Most of those ceremonies will be held in gyms or auditoriums.

“For the past year, the world has been so much chaos, it’s actually nice to have some normalcy to kind of come back into,” said Samuel Tilton, a senior and student-athlete at Corinth Holders High School in Wendell.

Tilton told CBS 17 he wants the traditional graduation experience and plans on accepting his diploma on stage.

“It definitely was a weight lifted off of my shoulders,” Tilton said of learning his school will hold an in-person graduation ceremony.

“At the beginning of the year, we didn’t even know if we were gonna have athletics, we didn’t even know if we were gonna go back to the building. So to gradually be able to go back to the building and have athletics and now be able to have a, not normal graduation, but better than nothing, it’s definitely nice.”

New guidance from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Public Instruction recommends staff and students take a rapid COVID-19 test prior to attending graduation ceremonies and proms. The tests are free for schools and according to NCDHHS, they can show results in 15 minutes.

The guidance also suggests holding ceremonies outdoors, with six feet of social distancing between families, and having people 5 and older wear face masks.

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