By Garrett Mitchell
On Wednesday, May 13, Woodruff High School and District Four administration met with all Class of 2020 graduating seniors and explained plans for an in-person, socially-distanced graduation ceremony to be held in compliance with safety measures to help combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
District administration had sought the input of graduating seniors through a mailed survey giving senior students three options about commencement proceedings. The majority of the seniors choose the second option, an in-person ceremony carried out with respect for CDC and DHEC social distancing guidelines.
The commencement ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, May 28 at 8 p.m. in W.L. Varner Stadium with alternate dates and times listed in the event of inclement weather.
Per District Four Schools Superintendent Dr. Rallie Liston, details of the ceremony are as follows:
- Graduates will be allotted four tickets for guests to attend. Guests for each graduate will be seated in groups of four, with groups being separated on all sides by six feet throughout the stadium.
- Seating for each group will be assigned via a lottery system, with seating assignments marked throughout the stadium with each graduate’s name.
- Graduates will enter in different groups through multiple entrances to the stadium to maintain social distancing and will be appropriately spaced in the on-field seating area.
- Following the conclusion of commencement exercises, only graduates and school officials will be permitted on the field, with graduates exiting the field immediately following the conclusion of events following the same protocol of multiple exists used during the processional.
- With social distancing guidelines in effect, Varner Stadium will be able to accommodate 800 spectators for the ceremony while maintaining state-sanctioned guidelines.
- All guests, regardless of age, must have a ticket to enter the stadium. A live stream of the ceremony will be available for those unable to attend in person.
Additionally, says Liston, ceremonial music will be played from a pre-recorded track as the band and chorus cannot safely be on the field and maintain distancing guidelines. Liston said he will be handing each student their diploma, but out of respect for safety will be unable to shake students’ hands, opting instead for a thumbs up.
In regard to the time-honored tradition of graduates tossing their caps into the air, Liston added, “We want students to be able to have as normal of a graduation as possible. We will have every graduate write their names in their caps and when they toss them, they will leave them on the field prior to exiting the stadium. We will retrieve the caps and graduates can pick them up at the school the following day.”
In the event of inclement weather on May 28, alternate dates and times for commencement set by the district are:
- Friday May 29, 8 p.m.
- Saturday May 30, 10 a.m. or 8 p.m.
- Sunday May 31, 3 p.m.
Additionally, guests and spectators are encouraged, but will not be required, to wear masks while inside the stadium.
“Graduating in W.L. Varner Stadium is something that has been cherished dearly by generations of Wolverines,” Liston said. “It has taken a lot of work by our administration and faculty to make this happen, and I appreciate all of their efforts. Our kids have lost out on a lot of memories over their last nine weeks of high school but hopefully they can go out on a positive note and this graduation will be something that is memorable to them.”