Lexi Chitwood had her May graduation celebration from high school all planned out.
The Alexander High senior was going to have a graduation dinner with family and friends the day after the school’s ceremony.
However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, schools have been closed since mid-March. And with public health officials still recommending social distancing, large gatherings have been postponed or canceled, including school graduations.
“It has been heartbreaking,” Chitwood said. “It has been difficult to plan things.”
On Tuesday, the Douglas County School System announced it had tentatively set July 21-22 to hold commencement exercises. The location of the graduation for the five schools will be announced closer to the date of the ceremonies.
The adjusted schedule has Chapel Hill and Alexander holding graduation on July 21. Chapel Hill’s graduation will be held at 2:30 p.m. and Alexander’s will be at 7 p.m.
On July 22, Lithia Springs will hold graduation at 10 a.m., followed by New Manchester at 2:30 p.m. and Douglas County at 7 p.m.
Since some seniors will not be available for the July graduations, Douglas County Schools Superintendent Trent North said they are welcome to participate in the graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2021 with their school.
“We will make it special for anyone in the Class of 2020 who needs this option,” North wrote in a letter to students and parents Tuesday. “We want ALL of our students to have the opportunity to walk across the stage.”
Chitwood said she expects to march with her class in the July ceremonies with some alterations to her plans. She was expected to participate in a softball tournament with her club team before heading to Piedmont College.
“I will just have to skip the tournament,” Chitwood said. “I’m glad we are doing something. I would rather skip the tournament than not have a graduation. It will be the last time that we will be together as a class.”
North said in the letter Tuesday the July plans are tentative and that the school system will follow guidelines established by public health agencies.
He also said that all seniors that plan to march in July must attend the graduation practice.
Chapel Hill senior Shaheed Nuriddin said he will participate in the July ceremony.
“My family wants to see me walk across that stage,” said Nuriddin, who will attend Clark Atlanta University. “It is a big accomplishment.”
Nuriddin’s classmate Bradyn Swinson said he will not be able to march in July because he will be back in school in Oregon.
“Since it is tentative, I don’t think we are going to commit to buying a plane ticket,” said Swinson, who is on a football scholarship at the University of Oregon. “It is disappointing because you only get one opportunity to graduate from high school. I’m just focused on college right now.”