By Anna Phillips | June 10, 2020 at 5:03 PM EDT – Updated June 10 at 7:16 PM
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – As petitions continue to circulate and a Facebook group urges the New Hanover County Board of Education to reconsider hosting drive-in graduation ceremonies next week, survey results show what approximately 1,500 students and parents requested from the district.
The survey shows 80.1% of respondents wanted graduation held on or as close as possible to regular graduation weekend, and 64.9% wanted graduation hosted at school venues on regularly scheduled graduation weekends when possible.
Upon recommendation by two task forces, the Board of Education voted 4-3 on June 2 in favor of drive-thru or drive-in ceremonies only to be held at Cape Fear Community College’s North Campus, in the lot used for truck-driving classes.
In response to the survey results, New Hanover County Schools Chief Communication Officer Ann Gibson wrote in an email to WECT’s Anna Phillips:
“Comments indicated little desire for a virtual graduation. In light of the strong desire for a June graduation and information available in late May up to June 2 regarding state restrictions and Public Health recommendations, the task force recommended the drive in/drive thru format to maintain compliance with social distancing and attendance requirements at that time.”
Only vehicles with a graduate inside will be permitted, and while families can bring as many people as fit in their vehicle, spaces are reserved for standard vehicles and any over-size vehicles will be directed to the back of the lot.
A jumbotron will be set up so that people parked further back will be able to see their graduate walk across the stage.
On Wednesday, Board of Education member David Wortman, who pushed for graduations to be held on each school’s football field and voted against drive-in ceremonies, said:
“We are where we are right now. We have graduations that are scheduled for next week. I think it’s pretty obvious the community doesn’t think they’re ideal, but I think at this point we really need to look at what we’re doing next week. We do have seniors who are graduating who have been in school for 12 or 13 years and we need to figure out a way to celebrate those seniors and congratulate them and help them in any way we can moving forward. I think these difficult times have really shown that whereas a lot of things are politicized, we need to focus on our young leaders.”
Judy Justice, also a BOE member, who voted for drive-thru events because of safety concerns and the ability to enforce social distancing said, “I hate to see the students so negative. I hate to see the families so negative. That’s not helping anything. It’s not going to change the reality of what we’re facing right now, but you can make a really great experience out of what we’re going to be doing next week.”
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