PCPS sets final graduation plans, senior ticket allotment depends on weather

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By Randy Arrington

LURAY, May 12 — On Monday night, members of the Page County School Board heard final plans for the graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2021. The plans include outdoor and indoor options, as well as a livestream of each event. The one key issue that could change the venue — and the number of tickets that each senior is given for guests — is the weather.

School officials are planning to hold outdoor ceremonies at both Luray (10 a.m.) and Page County (3 p.m.) high schools on Saturday, May 22.

With Governor Ralph Northam loosening public health restrictions on outdoor gatherings as of May 15, the two graduation venues will now be allowed to have up to 50 percent capacity (as opposed to 30 percent). Seating “pods” will now be six feet apart, instead of 10 feet. And graduating seniors will now have 15 tickets to hand out to friends and family, as opposed to 10. The number of dignitaries and speakers are being limited, according to school officials, to ensure that students receive the most tickets possible for guests.

Page’s ceremony is planned for the football field in front of Page County Middle School, while the Luray ceremony will be held adjacent to the school building and parking lot area. (See map with outlined areas at each school here.)

However, if inclement weather presents itself, the ticket allotment for each senior will drop to just five, as the ceremonies will move indoors to the smaller restraints of each high school’s gymnasium.

“We are going to do everything we can to make sure we have an outdoor ceremony,” assistant superintendent Eric Benson said at Monday’s meeting. He noted that lightning would automatically move the proceedings indoors, or “if it’s going to be a complete washout.”

“So if it’s a drizzle?” asked District 5 school board member Jackie Sullivan-Smoot.

“We will go ahead outdoors,” Benson responded.

If the ceremonies are moved indoors to the gymnasiums, the graduating classes at each school will be divided into two groups. Each will have its own separate ceremony, in order to keep numbers down and maintain social distancing guidelines (as relaxed as they may be). LHS would hold ceremonies at 9 a.m and again at 11 a.m., while PCHS would hand out diplomas at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. The schedule basically allows for a one-hour ceremony, with one hour to clean before the next ceremony.

Under the indoor plan, the seating arrangements will be different at each high school due to the number of graduates. The 126 graduates at LHS will be allowed to sit together in chairs on the floor of the gymnasium six feet apart. However, the 147 graduates at PCHS will sit with their “pod” of family and friends in order to accommodate more people in the gymnasium.

Benson noted that signage will be important at the outdoor events, as crowds will be directed where to enter and where to exit. They will also be reminded to wear masks, which will be mandatory (indoor or outdoor). No food or beverage will be allowed, and no loitering will be allowed before or after the ceremonies. Attendees will be asked to bring their own lawn chairs to graduation (for outdoor ceremony), and they will be clustered in 15-person pods representing the 15 tickets each graduate will be given (five for indoors). Those pods will be spaced six feet apart.

Benson also noted that videographer Charles King is prepared to provide livestreams of the events, whether it is held indoors or outdoors. Links to the livestream of the graduation ceremonies will be provided on the school division’s website, as well as on PageValleyNews.com

Graduation practice is set for 10 a.m. Thursday, May 20, at LHS and 11 a.m. Friday, May 21 at PCHS. A walk through for the livestream was held on Friday, May 7.

School officials will have to prep for both outdoor and indoor options, as an official decision on the graduation venue (based on the weather forecast) will not be made until the day before on Friday, May 21. Seniors will be given both outdoor tickets (15) and indoor tickets (5) in advance.

“I just hope everyone understands a lot of time and effort has gone into this,” Sullivan-Smoot said at Monday’s meeting. “Get ready ahead of time and decide who’s getting what tickets…indoor tickets and outdoor tickets…don’t wait until the last minute.”

For a complete and detailed summary of PCPS graduation plans, click here.



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