Majority opts for full graduation

By ELIOT DUKE
Of the Record staff
Posted 4/23/21

The Harnett County Schools Board of Education’s graduation hunch proved right.

After results from an initial poll regarding different options for senior graduation ceremonies came in pretty …

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Majority opts for full graduation

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The Harnett County Schools Board of Education’s graduation hunch proved right.

After results from an initial poll regarding different options for senior graduation ceremonies came in pretty close amidst ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions, the board decided to take one more poll before making a final call.

When the numbers came in from a second survey, county families preferred a return to tradition following last year’s unconventional graduation season.

“All of our high schools did select the full graduation option versus individual ceremony,” Assistant Superintendent Jermaine White said Monday evening.

“The survey closed on April 15 ... and more than 920 families participated. We have 1,400 seniors graduating across the county.”

HCS originally offered families three choices, but narrowed it to two as Gov. Roy Cooper started expanding crowd size capacities for both indoor and outdoor activities across the state. Chairman Eddie Jaggers felt that if families were able to get more tickets their preference would lean towards a full ceremony at the school’s football stadium.

“I thought that would be the case once you put it out there,” said Jaggers.

White said 57% of respondents chose the full graduation ceremony compared to 42% who wanted individual senior ceremonies like the ones held for the Class of 2020. Based on current capacity limits for the four football stadiums, Western High School students will receive seven tickets, Overhills High seniors will get six, and seniors at Triton High School and Harnett Central High School will each have five. Ticket allotments could bump up by a few more should capacity restrictions lower even more prior to June.

“That’s based at 50% capacity of our stadiums from the numbers we’ve received from our maintenance department and fire marshal’s office,” White said. “There’s a possibility to open up and give seven tickets to those with five.”

HCS graduation planners, White said, took notes from other school districts that have held full graduation ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic and feels confident the district can keep attendees safe.

“We have a pretty good idea how to execute that so we don’t have any issues,” said White. “We felt we’ve done a good job as a district of being able to mitigate spread of COVID so far, so we don’t anticipate that being an issue.”

One way HCS plans to practice social distancing during the ceremonies is by keeping families seated together in pods and spaced apart from others outside the group. Inclement weather, however, changes the game entirely if a ceremony needs to move inside. White said families will be made aware of any contingency plans beforehand.

Cooper, on Wednesday, announced he planned to lift COVID-19 restrictions by June 1 should key metrics continue to either stabilize or decrease. Fleming said HCS is aware of the possibility and it could affect the number of tickets allotted.

“It may,” Fleming said. “We are still looking at capacity.”

HCHS and OHS scheduled graduation for June 3 while THS and WHHS are set for June 4. Times will vary.

Eliot Duke can be reached at eduke@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2038.

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