VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Hampton Roads' largest school division announced how it will hand graduation for the Class of 2020.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools outlined the plans on Tuesday, saying that it will declare June "The Month of the VBCPS Graduate," with several celebratory events and displays to honor the graduation of more than 4,800 seniors.
Because Virginia's stay-at-home order is currently in place until June 10, the originally scheduled ceremonies at the Convention Center were canceled.
So now between June 17 and June 20, every high school will host an individual graduation ceremony for each student, allowing the graduate to hear their name called, walk across a stage in their cap and gown, receive their diploma, and have their picture taken.
Each school will work with seniors and their families regarding the specific time for their walk, a guest list of no more than 10 people, and the appropriate social distancing protocols that will have to be maintained.
Commemorative programs will be created, and each student will be provided with copies for their family.
"The bottom line is this: our seniors have worked so hard and deserve to be celebrated. We will make it happen," Virginia Beach School Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence previously said in a letter to students.
Many Virginia Beach seniors said they were glad to finally have a plan.
"As long as I can walk across the stage and some people are there, I’ll take it," said Bayside senior Mayson Littles.
“I'm just glad we have something rather than nothing," said Cox High School senior Weston Green. "Something tangible, something in person."
But, the plan didn't check all the boxes for parents.
"It's just not going to be the same feel to watch just your child walk across, with a select few people," said Cox parent Jennifer Green.
Seniors haven't seen their classmates since mid-March and had hoped to at graduation.
The Norfolk School Division recently announced they are aiming to have an in-person ceremony with students in August.
"It feels like we are just doing it for the sake of doing it," said Cox senior Jake Hogan. "It doesn't really feel all that authentic."
The school district also announced other features and events that will take place in June:
- A special VBCPS Graduation 2020 website, where each school will post a virtual ceremony video tribute, featuring a welcome from the principal and superintendent as well as student speeches from the valedictorian and salutatorian. All candidates for graduation will be featured with their own personal slide as part of the virtual ceremony. Videos will be available during the week of June 11.
- A special Class of 2020 "Pass the Diploma" video, featuring students from each of the high schools, scheduled to debut on the division's YouTube channel the week of June 1.
- From June 9 through June 13, VBCPS will "Light Up the Night," as each high school stadium illuminates their field lights at 8:20 p.m. for exactly 20 minutes and 20 seconds, while "2020" is displayed on the scoreboard.
- VBCPS is working with community groups and businesses to display special tributes to graduates on prominent marquees in the city.
- Each of the district's 87 schools and centers will display special graduation tributes to the Class of 2020 on their marquees.
- A celebratory yard sign will be given to every graduate.
- The VB Grad Wall will once again allow families and friends to post inspirational messages for the Class of 2020 on the division website by using the hashtag #VBGrad2020 on social media.