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Plans for Howard Community College commencement that was postponed due to coronavirus unveiled

Howard Community College on Monday released preliminary plans for its Class of 2020 graduation that was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The rescheduled commencement is currently set for Aug. 21 at the UMBC Event Center in Catonsville, with Dec. 20 as a backup date if necessary, according to a statement from HCC President Kate Hetherington. The original graduation, which was set for May 22, was postponed by the college on March 20.

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The recognition ceremony for nursing and allied health students, which has been separate in the past, will also occur on the same date as the regular commencement this year.

HCC will make an official decision about which date will be used at the beginning of the summer, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Homan.

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“We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to hold commencement on Aug. 21, but if things do not improve and large-scale events aren’t allowed, then we would use our fallback date of Dec. 20,” Homan said.

“The reason for that is we don’t really know what the situation is going to be with holding public events, especially a large-scale event like a commencement. That’s why we thought it was important to hold two dates and not just one date.”

The two dates, Homan said, gives the college flexibility to have as few conflicts as possible. The August date is before most students start classes at HCC — or transfer institutions — and the December date is during when HCC and most colleges will be on winter break.

While some colleges and public school systems have opted for virtual commencement ceremonies, Homan said it was important to Hetherington and her leadership team to reschedule the celebration for a later date rather than host it online.

“We recognize that our graduates deserve the best commencement possible,” Homan said. “We knew with [a virtual ceremony] they wouldn’t be able to have that same experience with their friends and families.”

HCC also recently announced it will be continuing virtual learning through the summer. The summer session, which begins in May, will be completely online, Homan said.

“We haven’t made a decision yet on the fall,” she said.

All events at the college have been canceled through at least June 30.

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