Chesterfield County schools to offer separate outdoor graduation ceremonies

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Roughly one year after Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) scrapped plans for a traditional, in-person graduation, the school division is preparing to honor the Class of 2021 through a series of outdoor ceremonies to be held at the various high school football fields.

According to a letter sent out to the CCPS community in mid-April, this idea was suggested by the high school principals.

“Doing so will allow groups of approximately 150-200 seniors to graduate at the same time with spatially distanced seating available for four guests per graduate,” the letter said. “Depending on the number of students who participate, a school may need two, three or four graduation sessions.”

CCPS released this graduation schedule on Friday, April 30. Schools are communicating directly with families regarding times for graduation ceremonies and how to sign up.

Thomas Dale High School senior Caleb Stancil, who is also on the baseball team, said that he’s been looking forward to this celebration.

“It’s pretty important to me because, family members, I feel like they should be able to watch physically and not through a screen, and it’s a better experience than, obviously, what happened last year,” he said. “It’s going to mean a lot because it’s definitely been a rougher road and it hasn’t been too smooth, and we’ve all worked really hard to get to where we’re at today.”

Stancil said that his friend who graduated last year was more disappointed about missing his senior baseball season than graduation. But Stancil feels blessed to be able to experience both.

“We’re having more social interactions with teachers and other classmates, and I think that’s really important, especially because it’s your last year in high school, to be able to finish out this year with those people,” he said.

Under Governor Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 72, outdoor graduations can have up to 5,000 attendees or 30% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy — whichever is fewer people. Restrictions on indoor graduations would allow for far fewer attendees, meaning a single graduation ceremony at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was not a viable option for CCPS this year.

“I feel like it’s going to go really good, and I’m excited about it because it might not be at VCU, but the football field’s still a pretty decent-sized place and it’s outside, to be able to still social distance and have a successful graduation,” Stancil said. “It’s going to be awesome.”

Stancil is headed to Paul D. Camp Community College in the fall, where he plans to continue his career as a student-athlete on the baseball team.

For now, he’s eagerly awaiting one special milestone: “I’m looking forward to being able to walk across the stage and say I graduated.”

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