Graduation could be virtual for many graduating seniors


CLEVELAND (WJW)- School districts across Northeast Ohio are coming to terms with the new reality of no in-person classes for the remainder of the school year all while trying to find a way to honor graduating seniors.

“My kids have made it very clear that they want their graduation and so when we can come together whenever that is we’re having that graduation.”

Eric Gordon is the CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

“In the meantime, we’re obviously going to have to look at some virtual options. We’re looking at things like TV broadcasts of graduations or digital kind of zoom conference graduations or parking lot graduations.”

The issue is also impacting some colleges and universities. Graduation will be virtual at Kent State University for each college and regional campus. According to a university spokesperson so far more than 3,600 graduates have RSVP’d to take part. There will be 17 different commencement streams.

Cuyahoga Community College will also be holding a virtual spring 2020 commencement. Some parents are expressing sadness about the change.

“So it’s going to be more like recording a zoom video than the whole pomp and circumstance and the prestige that comes with it,” said parent April Thomas.”You want because there are so few milestones in life them to be able to soak it in and realize say, ‘Wow that was really hard what I did and I did it all these people to the left and right of me did it.'”

The Willoughby-Eastlake School District is planning an open-air summer graduation contingent on health guidelines.

“We thought our best chance of being able to actually hold an actual graduation while social distancing would be in an open-air environment on our stadium,” said Superintendent Steve Thompson.

In Parma, superintendent Charles Smialek says hosting prom will prove challenging.

“For prom, I think we’d need to be a little bit more creative obviously it is a little harder to social distance at a dance.”   The school district is also working on how a graduation ceremony could safely be held.

“We can assure parents that there will be some form of a commencement. We agree with them we want to honor or seniors. We love the end of the senior year I think it’s one of the best experiences of a K-12 education. We want to provide as close to what would have happened has this pandemic had not occurred.” 

In a statement David James, the superintendent of Akron Public Schools said, “Until something changes concerning how people are allowed to congregate, we can make no plans for these very important events for our students right now.” 

Gordon says they are working to plan for the upcoming school year despite the ever-changing environment of remote learning during this pandemic.

“We’ll be ready but that readiness will depend upon the public health and the social distancing measures that are in place at that time.”

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