On Friday, Duval County Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene shared with seniors that traditional graduation ceremonies could not be held in May due to safety concerns among the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, following significant student feedback, the district chose to begin planning for ceremonies to be held this summer in July.
Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene called the move one of the most difficult decisions that she has ever had to make in a Friday email (provided below) to the Class of 2020.
“It is now clear that we will not be able to safely gather to hold graduation ceremonies as normal next month,” Greene wrote. “To do so would put all attendees and our community at risk of the dangerous consequences of the virus.”
Greene said that when surveyed, most seniors said they wanted to have traditional graduation ceremonies later this summer instead of holding virtual graduations like those scheduled for school districts like St. Johns County. Originally, graduations were scheduled to run throughout May at various venues including the UNF Arena and VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
Last month, students across the state transitioned to remote learning after campuses shut down due to the spread of COVID-19. The plan, for now, is to reopen schools on May 4, but that could change. The last day of school for Duval students is May 29.
The official graduation dates and diplomas are not affected by delaying the ceremonies, Greene said.
Below is Dr. Greene’s full email to seniors:
Dear Class of 2020,
Earlier this week, I urged you to choose strength in managing through the impact of COVID-19 on this special year in your life. I want to remind you of that guidance as I share with you one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever had to make.
It is clear now that we will not be able to safely gather to hold graduation ceremonies as normal next month. To do so would put all attendees and our community at risk of the dangerous consequences of the virus. While we will not be able to hold a traditional commencement ceremony, we still intend to honor your wishes.
Thousands of you replied to our survey about the most desirable alternative to traditional commencement ceremonies, and overwhelmingly, you asked for traditional ceremonies later this summer. Therefore, we have already begun planning traditional ceremonies for a nontraditional time, July 2020. I will continue to keep you and your families informed as these plans are completed. Also, I want to assure you that your official graduation date and your diploma are not affected by delaying the ceremonies. These will reflect normal dates associated with the completion of your graduation requirements.
While we are delaying traditional ceremonies, we also want to celebrate and appreciate you now, as you are completing your requirements and truly earning your diploma. Your schools are now collaborating with WJXT Channel 4 and High School 9:12 to provide a televised video tribute to the graduating class of each school later in May. I will also provide you with those details soon.
I want to close by reminding you how much your school family cares for you. How we deal with the vicissitudes of life reveals much about our character, and our response is always a choice. By choosing strength, these missed events and disappointments will become a fuel for your future. I look forward with hope of seeing you in person in July and hearing about the great accomplishments of this class on television in May. Your strength, resilience, and optimism for the future are inspirational to me and will be for many others.
Dr. Diana Greene