Class of 2021 Graduation Update

Class of 2021 Graduation Update
Posted on 05/21/2021
HCPS LogoMay 21, 2021 Update:

Dear Families, Faculty, and Staff,

We hope you all have had a great week. We are writing today with an important update related to our graduation ceremonies next month.

As you have likely seen, Governor Northam announced last week that he will lift all COVID-19 mitigation measures, including physical distancing requirements and capacity limits, on Friday, May 28 as a result of declining COVID-19 cases and increasing vaccination rates, among other things. These ever-changing requirements have driven our planning for our graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2021 and since the Governor’s announcement, we have carefully reevaluated our plans to determine what modifications we may need to make.

We have decided that with the upcoming easement of COVID-19 restrictions, all four graduation ceremonies next month will now be held indoors in the Farm Bureau Building at the Meadow Event Park. We will still hold two ceremonies each on Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19. Hosting the ceremonies indoors allows us to provide:

- a more controlled environment, including air conditioning, for our guests and graduates to avoid any last-minute disruptions due to severe weather (lightning, thunderstorms, downpours, extreme heat, etc.)
- a more traditional graduation to celebrate our deserving graduates as we draw closer to normalcy
- an enhanced audio/visual setup to ensure easy viewing from any seat and to make for a more memorable and joyful sendoff
- quick access to restrooms, and more

How many guests may attend?

With the indoor ceremonies, we will still be able to accommodate four guests per graduate. Seniors should have completed a school-specific Google Form by the May 14 deadline indicating who their guests will be. If they did not complete the form, please contact your school counselor.

How will students and guests be seated?

Under our revised plan, our graduates will be able to sit together at the front of the Farm Bureau Building while guests will be seated together in pods of four. As part of our continued health and safety measures, our graduating seniors will be spaced 3 feet apart, while each pod of four guests will also be 4 feet apart from other groups.

Are face masks required?

We ask all attendees to be respectful of the health and safety of others and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and the Governor’s associated Executive Order based on the status of your COVID-19 vaccination. The new guidance states that anyone who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can participate in the vast majority of indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Therefore, individuals who are fully vaccinated may choose not to wear a mask, and all unvaccinated guests are asked to wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Additionally, those who may already be fully vaccinated but wish to continue to wear a face mask at our ceremonies should do so with the school division’s full support.

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We are greatly looking forward to celebrating our seniors in just a few short weeks and this updated plan draws us one step closer to the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Dr. Michael Gill, Superintendent of Schools
Mrs. Jennifer Greif, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Leadership
Dr. Robert Staley, Director of Secondary Education
Dr. John Wheeler, Principal, Atlee High School
Mrs. Kristina Reece, Principal, Hanover High School
Mr. Charles Stevens, Principal, Mechanicsville High School
Mr. Christopher Martinez, Principal, Patrick Henry High School

April 30, 2021 Update:

Dear Class of 2021 and Families,


We hope you have had a great week. We are writing this afternoon with an exciting update related to the number of guests allowed at graduation.

Due to a change in state guidelines, we will now be able to accommodate up to four guests per graduate at our ceremonies at the Meadow Event Park on Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19. This is an increase from the initial three-guest limit we shared with you earlier this month. 

The ceremonies will still be live-streamed for loved ones who are unable to attend in person. Students will sit in a pod with their guests — also as we shared last month — and each pod will be spaced 6 feet apart. 

We are delighted that we will be able to safely accommodate more guests as we make graduation the joyful celebration our seniors truly deserve. Additional details will be shared by your student’s home school next week.

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Dr. Michael Gill, Superintendent of Schools
Mrs. Jennifer Greif, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Leadership
Dr. Robert Staley, Director of Secondary Education
Dr. John Wheeler, Principal, Atlee High School
Mrs. Kristina Reece, Principal, Hanover High School
Mr. Charles Stevens, Principal, Mechanicsville High School

Mr. Christopher Martinez, Principal, Patrick Henry High School


April 19, 2021 Update:

Dear Class of 2021 and Families,


We hope this email finds you safe and well. We are writing today to share an update with you regarding graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2021.

After much consideration and with the support of our School Board, we have decided to host this year’s graduation ceremonies at the Meadow Event Park in Doswell on Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19. We will hold two outdoor ceremonies each day in the Festival Loop (one in the morning and one in the early afternoon) to celebrate our tremendous graduates and maximize the number of guests who may attend. 

In accordance with the Governor’s executive order on COVID-19 restrictions and guidance from the Virginia Department of Education, up to three guests per graduate may attend the ceremony. The ceremonies will be live-streamed for loved ones who are unable to attend in person.

Holding the ceremonies outside at the Meadow Event Park allows us to welcome all of our graduates and accommodate more guests at each ceremony than what would have been possible at each school’s football stadium, while also providing a safe environment. We recognize that the number of guests is fewer than what is normally allowed at graduation. In these uncertain times, however, we are pleased to have crafted a plan that will allow our students to graduate together in front of as many friends and family as possible under the state’s current restrictions.  

We sincerely hope that this plan, which is outlined more below in an FAQ format, demonstrates our commitment to honoring the remarkable accomplishments of our Class of 2021 over the past 13 years in the best and safest way possible.

More information will be provided in the coming weeks.

When and where will graduation be held?

We will conduct four in-person ceremonies total - two each on Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19. The schedule is as follows:
- Mechanicsville High School: Friday, June 18 at 9 a.m.
- Hanover High School: Friday, June 18 at 2:30 p.m.
- Patrick Henry High School: Saturday, June 19 at 9 a.m.
- Atlee High School: Saturday, June 19 at 2:30 p.m.

All four ceremonies will be held at the Meadow Event Park in the Festival Loop.

How will seating work? 

Students will sit in a “pod” with their guests, which will help with the visibility of the stage while also maximizing the number of people permitted in the space. The pods will be spaced 10 feet apart. More details about this, ticketing, and other arrangements will be shared by your student’s school. 

Will students still be individually recognized?

Yes. Each student’s name will be called and they will receive their diploma on stage before proceeding back to their designated pod.

Why are the ceremonies not at the four high schools?

We want to make sure as many people as possible have the opportunity to attend the ceremonies and celebrate our graduates. Holding the ceremonies at the Meadow Event Park allows us to do just that - maximizing the crowd size while maintaining a safe environment for all.

Furthermore, the 10-foot spacing required by the state between each graduate on the field and each guest in the stands quickly uses up the limited available space. The Meadow Event Park allows us to host two-to-three times as many attendees as our high school stadiums, permitting three guests per graduate. If the ceremonies were held at our high schools, only one guest per graduate would have been allowed in accordance with physical distancing requirements. 

Why aren’t the ceremonies at the Siegel Center as in years past?

Indoor facilities such as the Siegel Center are limited to a total of 500 attendees, which would severely restrict the number of guests allowed per graduate.

What happens if there is inclement weather?

We are still developing plans for possible inclement weather, including holding indoor graduations in the Farm Bureau Building that stands next to the Festival Loop. We will communicate any changes to our plans as they are made. 

Will we be able to take pictures?

Yes. The Farm Bureau Building next to the Festival Loop will be set up for pictures. The number of people allowed in the building at one time is limited, so we ask for your patience in this process. 

I have other questions. Who should I reach out to?

We will continue to provide you with regular updates regarding graduation as they become available. For questions about graduation requirements, please contact your school counselor. For questions about the ceremony, please contact your school principal. Please note, however, that we are still planning the ceremonies and will not have answers to every question at this moment.

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Over the past 13 months, we have seen the resiliency of our students, especially our seniors. We know that this final year of high school has not been normal, but we are committed to honoring you in the coming weeks and months to make sure you feel special, unique, and valued. 

Thank you for your continued patience as we finalize these plans. 

With deepest gratitude,

Dr. Michael Gill, Superintendent of Schools
Mrs. Jennifer Greif, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Leadership
Dr. Robert Staley, Director of Secondary Education
Dr. John Wheeler, Principal, Atlee High School
Mrs. Kristina Reece, Principal, Hanover High School
Mr. Charles Stevens, Principal, Mechanicsville High School
Mr. Christopher Martinez, Principal, Patrick Henry High School

Original March 18, 2021 Message:

Dear Class of 2021 and Families,

We hope this email finds you safe and well. We are writing today to share an update with you regarding graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2021, particularly in light of the Governor’s announcement yesterday outlining these requirements.

We are encouraged by the additional flexibility outlined in the Governor’s preliminary guidance, and we are carefully reviewing it.  While no final decisions have been made at this time, we are actively evaluating a variety of scenarios to ensure that our seniors and families receive the joyful and safe recognition they deserve. 

Please be assured that we will continue to provide you with regular updates regarding graduation as they become available. Regardless of the graduation format that is decided upon, we want to reassure you that we will foster a celebratory environment as we have done in years past to make it meaningful, while also adhering to all applicable COVID-19 and other official guidance.

Sincerely,

Dr. Michael Gill, Superintendent of Schools
Mrs. Jennifer Greif, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Leadership
Dr. Robert Staley, Director of Secondary Education
Dr. John Wheeler, Principal, Atlee High School
Mrs. Kristina Reece, Principal, Hanover High School
Mr. Charles Stevens, Principal, Mechanicsville High School
Mr. Christopher Martinez, Principal, Patrick Henry High School
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