Graduation

Halifax County High School’s 2019 graduates and faculty members (seated on the floor) are surrounded by a full-capacity crowd that filled the Halifax County High School gym for last year’s commencement. Although timing is far from certain due to virus precautions, Halifax County High School Principal Michael Lewis said as soon as they are able to do so, they’ll hold a traditional graduation in the gym.

Halifax County High School is now fully committed to holding a second graduation once it is deemed safe to do so by the state.

Halifax County High School principal Michael Lewis and Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg made that abundantly clear to Halifax County School Board members when they met at Halifax County Middle School on Monday evening after school board members brought concerns about the current Comets in Cars drive-thru graduation.

ED-1 trustee Kathy Fraley spoke about a petition that is asking for a traditional graduation ceremony with over 600 signatures and the many phone calls she had received from parents not pleased with the drive-thru idea.

ED-7 trustee Keith McDowell also said he had received 14 calls Monday afternoon and three emails.

“We need to put this decision off,” said McDowell of planning the drive-thru graduation. “I don’t know why we can’t have it in the stadium. Why do we have to deprive these kids? My kid wouldn’t go to a drive-thru graduation… and the board didn’t have a say so.”

Fraley also mentioned the idea of having the graduation at the Tuck Dillard Memorial Stadium.

“One suggestion that I have from a lot of parents is at least waiting until June. We would be in phase one (of the governor’s plan to gradually reopen Virginia) and could have an outside graduation at the stadium the traditional way,” said Fraley.

However, phase one of the Governor’s Forward Virginia plan still has a 10-person limit. Phase one is expected to last at least two weeks starting Friday. It isn’t until phase two that allows gatherings of 50 people. There are more than 300 Halifax County High School graduates.

And Lewis said even having it at the stadium presents its own challenges with the attendance creeping into the thousands quickly once parents and family members are counted.

“We’ll be lucky if we get to have groups of 50 by August,” said chairman Todd Moser.

He also said they could put the graduates in the stadium at 6 feet apart, but he said once you started trying to figure out where to place the parents, that’s when it became an issue.

But, Lewis began to ease the school board members’ minds by saying as soon as they able to do so, they’d hold a traditional graduation in the gym.

Lineburg also pointed out that no other school system in the state is having a traditional graduation ceremony and that the state recommended not having one this summer.

However, he said, “The second this clears up, we will have a full graduation.”

Moser also said, “As long as I’m sitting on this board, I don’t care if it’s December of 2020, we will have graduation for the class of 2020. It’s what they deserve and need ­— if the state allows us to do it.”

Fraley also said the school system needed to make that clear to all of the parents and admitted there must have been miscommunication along the way.

“I didn’t even know that was an option,” she added.

ED-2 trustee Roy Keith Lloyd and vice chairman Sandra Garner-Coleman agreed that the drive-thru was the best option to give the seniors “immediate recognition.”

Garner-Coleman said, “It’s best for us to do something… we can’t pass the opportunity to recognize them in some way.”

The high school principal also noted that the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce had given out Class of 2020 signs to the families of seniors and signs have been placed out front of the high school to recognize them.

The school board also agreed to pay for each seniors’ yearbook this year.

“I think that was an excellent move and a great way for them to take some memories,” said Lewis.

He also said a scholarship celebration is being planned for Thursday and next week.

The drive-thru graduation will be held Saturday, May 23 starting at 9 a.m. with seniors and their families parked in the Halifax County Middle School parking lot.

The ceremony will be broadcast on 95.3WHLF, cable TV and Facebook Live.

“We will celebrate now then circle back to have a celebration with the entire family,” Lewis concluded.

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com