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RCPS to hold online graduation ceremonies at part one of graduation celebrations

In light of the current restrictions imposed by Governor Northam, Roanoke County Public Schools is planning to celebrate the Class of 2020 in multiple parts.  Part one will take the form of online graduation ceremonies that will premiere on May 19 and 20.  Part two will be in-person celebrations to take place later this summer or fall.  These events will be scheduled once the current restrictions on large gatherings have been lifted.

“Our principals, our school board and I are 100-percent committed to having in-person ceremonies and celebrations eventually.  Our seniors have earned that,” said Dr. Ken Nicely, superintendent of Roanoke County Public Schools.  “Meanwhile, our seniors also deserve to receive, on time, the diploma they have earned. We are working with our principals to produce an online ceremony to give our seniors a meaningful event for their scheduled graduation day, with the promise that there will be an in-person event later this year when it is possible. Doing both takes a lot of work, planning and effort, but our kids deserve for us to do everything we can, and I want to commend our high schools for their incredible efforts,” Nicely added.

Schools will be sending additional information to seniors in the coming days and weeks about graduation and additional celebrations and recognitions.  Online graduations will be streamed via the Roanoke County Public Schools website at www.rcps.us/graduation.

Here is the complete message Dr. Nicely sent to seniors and parents on April 16:

We‘re just over a month away from the official end of the school year; an ending unlike any that we have experienced. Many of our seniors are working hard finishing up school work and preparing for AP exams, and students in the younger grades are busy working through the essential content in their classes as well. The purpose of this message, however, is to focus on our seniors: the Class of 2020.

Seniors, we are so very proud of you and we are with you.  As the parent of a current senior, I have seen firsthand and understand the pain that our seniors and we parents are experiencing in not being able to enjoy the traditional rites of passage that would normally be happening this time of year. Even as we all try to be resilient and find our way through these times, it is still ok to grieve the loss of being separated from each other during what should be a time of joy and accomplishment. Through our grief, though, we must find our courage and move forward through our current circumstances. No matter how we do it, we will celebrate the Class of 2020 and all that they have earned and accomplished. Our celebrations will not look the same and will not be what we would have wished, but we are determined to celebrate our seniors nonetheless because they have earned it!

Our high school principals and senior class sponsors are working hard to do some very special things for the Class of 2020 leading up to the end of May. Here is some general information which I hope you will find helpful.

First, let me be very clear that our principals, our school board and I are 100% committed to having in-person ceremonies and celebrations eventually. Our seniors have earned that. Right now, as you know, the governor's order prohibits large gatherings. Once these current restrictions are lifted, we will schedule in-person ceremonies and celebrations.  Even with 20/20 vision, we have no idea when the ban on large gatherings will be lifted so that our seniors can celebrate together in a proper way. Regardless, in-person celebrations will happen at some point. Period.

Meanwhile, our seniors deserve to receive, on time, the diploma they have earned. We are working with our principals to produce an online ceremony to give our seniors a meaningful event for their scheduled graduation day, with the promise that there will be an in-person event later this year when it is possible. Doing both takes a lot of work, planning and effort, but our kids deserve for us to do everything we can, and I want to commend our high schools for their incredible efforts.

Online graduation ceremonies will take place on May 19 and 20 to coincide with the keepsake graduation announcements you have already purchased. The online ceremonies will still feature familiar parts like student speakers and a slide show with the photo and name of each graduate. Each school will also be scheduling a special day for each senior to drive by the school and be presented with his or her diploma from the principal. More specific information will be coming from your school.

The class of 2020 has become the most resilient class ever in Roanoke County Public Schools and I’m incredibly proud of how all our students have weathered this current pandemic.  We are going to celebrate your accomplishments.  Part one of this celebration will be online.  Part two will be in person and we all look forward to seeing you gather for that class photo.