Class of 2020 Graduation Plans

May 5, 2020

The Class of 2020 has endured some of our nation’s greatest challenges - born into a time when our country was grieving the September 11th tragedy and now graduating during a global pandemic. Washington County Public Schools (WCPS) is committed to celebrating the Class of 2020 in the best way possible under the current circumstances.

WCPS is moving forward with plans for three potential ceremonies:

  • Traditional graduation

  • An in-person graduation with students only that will be live-streamed

  • Virtual graduation

In this update, you will find more information about:

  • Graduation schedules

  • Traditional graduation

  • Live-stream graduation

  • Virtual graduation

  • Decision date

  • Senior celebration ceremonies

  • Next steps

Graduation Schedules

All WCPS graduations will be held the week of June 15, 2020. The decision to move graduations two weeks later than originally scheduled will allow more time in case the Governor’s orders regarding COVID-19 health precautions are lifted. Such changes may allow for large events, such as hosting over 2,000 guests without the need for social distancing.

We understand the inconvenience of this date change as well as the implications for those with jobs, military training, and college or travel plans. However, please keep in mind that WCPS wants to provide a greater opportunity for the majority of graduates to experience a graduation ceremony if possible.

Click the attachment below to download the Class of 2020 graduation schedule

Traditional Graduation

WCPS’ first choice, if allowed, is to celebrate seniors in traditional graduation ceremonies the week of June 15-19, 2020, for all graduates and their guests. Schools would use their previously planned venues to host their traditional graduation programs with graduates, their families, friends, and staff present.

If traditional graduations are held and the ceremony is scheduled to be conducted in the ARCC at Hagerstown Community College (HCC), please note the time for ceremonies has changed to 10:00 a.m. The facility is not air-conditioned, and summer heat may be an issue later in the day.

WCPS will monitor the implementation of Maryland’s “Roadmap to Recovery” plan. Based on the status of this plan, an announcement regarding traditional graduation will be made the week of June 1, 2020.

Live-stream Graduation

If a traditional graduation is not allowed, WCPS’ second choice is to host a ceremony with only graduates present. If this ceremony falls within the “Roadmap to Recovery” guidelines, the event would be live-streamed over the internet and broadcast to families and friends during the week of June 15-19, 2020. Live-stream graduations are an opportunity for graduates to walk across the stage individually in their cap and gown to receive their high school diploma.

Every high school’s live-stream graduation would be in the North Hagerstown High School (NHHS) auditorium. Existing technology and equipment are available to broadcast the ceremony on Antietam Cable and live-stream the ceremony online.

The NHHS auditorium is large and air-conditioned, and the school offers enough space to maintain social distancing. For example, there is ample parking for graduates only, and there are enough classrooms to accommodate the largest graduating class in small groups.

The stage would be set for each graduating class to use their school colors for backdrops, decorations, podiums, and table covers. The live-stream graduations would include live speeches by selected speakers, like the principal, board member, valedictorian, and salutatorian. Professional photographers would be available to capture a photo of each graduate.

If this format is allowed, a live-stream graduation would follow all of the Governor’s current orders regarding COVID-19 health precautions, with graduates staying in classrooms of 10 people or less before crossing the stage, walking six (6) feet apart, and wearing face masks that graduates can lower as they step on to the stage. Graduates would be able to wash and sanitize their hands frequently at multiple locations in the school. They would not be permitted to gather together before, during, or after the ceremony.

Due to the restrictions, only graduates would participate in the ceremony with limited faculty in attendance. Unfortunately, parents, families, and friends would not be allowed to attend or be on school property. The live-stream and broadcast would allow families and loved ones to watch and listen in a location of their choice as each name is called and the graduate walks across the stage to receive his/her diploma from the principal. Graduates would be able to watch the program from their designated rooms or on monitors in the hallways as they proceed to the auditorium and return to their designated rooms.

Virtual Graduation

Regardless of whether a traditional or live-stream ceremony occurs, WCPS will host a virtual graduation that will be shared on YouTube Prime according to the established schedule the week of June 15-19, 2020.

Virtual graduations are pre-produced videos that include:

  • Traditional ceremony speeches (i.e. valedictorian, salutatorian, school principal)

  • Each graduate’s name, photo, and honors

  • A brief video message created and submitted by each graduate

Graduates can already be thinking about the 10-15 second video message they would like to share with their classmates and family. More information about the students’ role in producing the virtual graduation will be coming to them soon.

Virtual graduations will be streamed on YouTube Prime at a specific date and time as a premiere so families can celebrate together. The video will be available to watch without a YouTube Prime membership, and it can be viewed for one year after the ceremony.

For a professional product, the virtual graduation will be created by Herff-Jones in collaboration with StageClip and MarchingOrder. School principals will share more details and information with graduates and their families in the coming days.

To make this a successful endeavor, students will need to take responsibility to follow very specific instructions and meet established deadlines. WCPS can help students meet any of these requirements while following all social distancing guidelines. Again, there will be more information about these details provided to students and families in the near future.

Decision Date

A decision will be announced by WCPS the week of June 1, 2020, as to whether traditional or in-person, live-stream graduations can occur. The type of graduation is dependent upon the Governor’s orders regarding gathering sizes, social distancing guidelines, and other health precautions during COVID-19. The determination about graduation is a county-wide decision and will not be made by individual schools or vary from school to school.

WCPS appreciates the understanding and flexibility of our graduates, families, and community regarding graduation ceremonies during this COVID-19 pandemic. These are unprecedented decisions being made during unpredictable times. It is of the utmost importance to our superintendent, Dr. Boyd Michael, to honor every graduate for earning a high school diploma and to celebrate that accomplishment in a meaningful way.

Click the attachment below to download the Class of 2020 graduation schedule

Senior Celebration Ceremonies

WCPS traditionally hosts ceremonies recognizing the achievements of seniors each spring. These celebrations will be held as virtual events that will include remarks from program speakers. In addition, each honoree’s name, photo, and award information will be featured.

These celebrations will be posted to Dr. Boyd Michael’s superintendent page on Facebook at the scheduled date and time indicated in the chart below. The videos will also be added to the WCPS YouTube channel at a later date according to the schedule.

Senior honorees will be receiving an invitation to view the premiere of the celebration video as well as programs, certificates, and any additional award materials. These items will be mailed to homes in advance of the premiere date.

Next Steps

Now that graduates and families are informed of the possible graduation plans, please look for additional information that will be sent in the days and weeks ahead to make any of these events successful.

For example, schools will communicate with students about receiving caps and gowns as well as stoles, cords, and other graduation honors. Seniors will be receiving instructions for submitting videos, photos, and information for the virtual graduation.

If you have any questions regarding this information, please contact your school’s principal. Principals are working in school buildings during the closure and are best reached by email.