HOLLYWOOD, S.C. (WCSC) - Some Baptist Hill High School seniors and parents are asking for an in-person graduation ceremony on the football field.
“We didn’t get our last day of school, we don’t get prom, and we don’t know if we’re going to get a live graduation," Senior Class President Shalene Jones said. "It’s heartbreaking, because we worked so hard, and we can’t show what we did and show our parents: This is me. I’m in my cap and gown on the stage. Take my picture. We don’t get that.”
Right now, Charleston County School District staff members are planning virtual graduations for all of their seniors and planning to hold in-person ceremonies when it’s deemed safe to do so.
But for seniors at Baptist Hill, they say it can be a safe event to hold now. Their class only has 50 students, so they say they can remain socially-distant and still have their moment.
Marsha Aleem, the president of the District 23 Community Action Group, wrote the proposal for an in-person ceremony. It was sent to the school’s principal and Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait.
“Our proposal was based on what the Air Force Academy was able to do successfully, and the fact that we don’t have the technical infrastructure to support a virtual graduation," Aleem said. “Many of our households don’t have internet access."
She argued this could not only prevent some family members from tuning in but also make some members of the 2020 class miss out.
“For many students, they won’t be able to participate in a virtual graduation because the technical infrastructure doesn’t exist here,” she said.
In the proposal, she wrote all CDC guidelines would be followed: students would remain six to eight feet away from each other, masks would be worn at all times by all students and guests, and hand sanitizer would be readily available.
“The Air Force Academy recently graduated 967 cadets on their field using all CDC recommended precautions,” she wrote. “We feel very confident, that with less than 50 students, we can provide a memorable graduation experience for our seniors and their families and give them some degree of hope for their future as they endure these challenging times.”
Sharmane McNeil, a parent of a Baptist Hill senior, agreed.
“Watching my first born graduate and going off to college, that means the world to me," McNeil said. "It just means everything. There are no correct words to describe that feeling. I know that feeling when I graduated what my mama felt, so I want to feel the same way for my child.”
School district spokesperson Andy Pruitt said face-to-face graduations will be scheduled for all their seniors but not until medical experts declare them safe enough to hold.
“We understand the frustration of our seniors and their families as well as their desire to hold in-person graduation ceremonies during the week they were originally scheduled,” Pruitt said. “However, until we can confirm that we will not compromise the health of those attending large gatherings on our campuses, we will continue to exercise caution and not allow in-person events.”