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Due to Social Distancing, High School Graduations Get Creative

Aerial view of Richmond raceway
Henrico seniors will have a "graduation victory lap" at the Richmond International Raceway later this summer to make up for their traditional graduation ceremony, canceled due to COVID-19. (Photo: Chesson11 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

*This story was reported by VPM News intern Alex Broening

With gatherings still limited to groups of 10 or fewer, Virginia high schools have had to cancel their typical graduation ceremonies. In the Richmond region, schools are finding creative alternatives.

Goochland High School seniors usually graduate at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. Instead, they’ll pack their cars into the Goochland Drive-In Theater for an outdoor ceremony on June 16. They’ll watch recorded speeches and walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.

Taylor Teague, the senior class president, wishes that the changes weren’t necessary. 

“It’s not ideal, and it’s not what we wanted,” Teague said. 

However, because of the difficult circumstances, she’s appreciative of the school’s solution.

“Ultimately, we know that this is the best option, and we’re grateful that we have this,” she said. “Some of the other counties don’t get to see their class for the last time, they don’t get to walk across the stage.” 

Henrico County Public Schools planned a more elaborate celebration. High schools will kick off a three-part graduation with live streamed ceremonies during the week of June 8. Each ceremony will be tailored to the high school, and will include speeches by students, dignitaries, and school officials. 

Andrew Jenks, a spokesperson for Henrico County Public Schools, acknowledges this ceremony “can never replace” the in-person graduations that take place at VCU’s Siegel Center.

“These seniors deserve everything that every class before them received. but what we can do is make the best out of an unfortunate situation and do so in a way that the students and their families and our county as a whole will never forget,” Jenks said. 

Another part of the school district’s recognition of graduating seniors will take place at the Richmond Raceway. Seniors will be able to decorate their cars for what HCPS is calling a “graduation victory lap”. And later during the summer, Henrico seniors will be able to pose for photos in cap and gown with their diplomas. Those dates have not been selected yet, Jenks says.