Carroll County Public Schools and McDaniel College plan to hold graduation ceremonies that should look similar to traditional commencements.
Graduations last year were far from traditional due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Both CCPS and McDaniel plan to have graduations outdoors in a stadium. While the public school system is working to solidify its plans, McDaniel announced its May 22 commencement for not only the Class of 2021 but the Class of 2020 as well. Carroll Community College is sticking with its drive-thru degree hand-out.
County public high school graduates typically have their ceremonies inside McDaniel College’s Gill Center. However, CCPS adjusted its plans last spring to avoid crowds in an effort to mitigate COVID-19 spread. The June graduations still included walking across a stage, but in front of a much smaller audience. McDaniel’s ceremony was canceled entirely.
Devanshi Mistry, student representative for the school board, asked about senior events during Wednesday night’s meeting. She said the pandemic has strongly affected the Class of 2021′s final two years in high school and asked about the plans for prom, graduation and other senior traditions.
Eric King, director of high schools, said it’s been a hot topic.
He said CCPS high schools will not be able to offer a traditional prom, though he’s confident they can have senior picnic events that would be held outside, possibly in a stadium, with food and activities. “And each of the principals are going to start working with their senior class leadership to look at what they want to do, what is possible,” he said.
“Graduation is, I’m very excited to say — t’s going to be outdoors,” King said during the meeting, adding that they have two places in mind.
King said later in an interview they are weighing the pros and cons of using McDaniel College’s stadium or the CCPS high school stadiums. McDaniel has a superior stadium, he said.
“And of course seating capacity is going to be an enormous deal,” he said.
King said they hope to announce a date soon but could only say for now that the ceremonies will all be completed by June 6.
In terms of guidance regarding graduation ceremonies, he said he is not yet sure what the state will be asking of CCPS. He said they are playing a guessing and anticipation game at the moment.
King said two or three ceremonies could be held in one day but added there’s still a lot of planning to be done, including developing a plan for bad weather.
“We most likely are not going to have any evening ceremonies,” he said noting the picture quality needed for video recording. And avoiding late afternoons decreases their chances of running into thunderstorms, he added.
King said there will still be some “oddities” like limited tickets to family and friends, but they will still do their best to make it enjoyable.
Last year, the Class of 2020 held their graduations inside school auditoriums. King described the format as an individual graduation for each senior — without the big audience and the entire class in one room. Graduates could still take a picture next to the principal, but only in front of their limited guests. Graduates could later watch a video of the recorded ceremony with all the speeches and footage of classmates walking across the stage, edited together.
King said he hopes to announce an exact graduation ceremony date for each high school in the next few weeks.
“I just really think our seniors deserve that, after everything that’s happened over the past year,” Mistry said during the meeting.
McDaniel College President Roger Casey announced on Wednesday that outdoor commencement ceremonies will be held May 22 for the classes of both 2021 and 2020 at Kenneth R. Gill Stadium. The undergraduate and graduate combined graduation will start at 10 a.m. for Class of 2020, and 2 p.m. for Class of 2021. Last year’s ceremony was canceled.
“At the time of cancellation, I assured the class of 2020 that we were committed to a ceremony in their honor,” Casey said in a letter.
The president outlined some health and safety protocols like having no more than two guests and a mask for everyone, even for those who have been vaccinated. If the weather is expected to be bad, the ceremony will be moved inside the Gill Center and no guests will be allowed.
Carroll Community College will continue with its diploma pick-up. It’s something the May, August and December 2020 graduates have been happy with, Laurie Shields, with the registrar’s office, said.
“Students were thrilled to have that 1:1 time with our president and provost. It’s also become a family oriented and participatory celebration,” she wrote in an email.
She said cars can be filled with grandparents, parents, children and some pets who can all be part of the experience. Shields added the college community look forward to doing it again June 4 for the May 2021 graduates.
The drive-thru is livestreamed and posted on the school’s website. Approximately 160 graduates, nearly 60% of those eligible, participated in the first one in May 2020. Carroll County Sheriff’s 2020 Police Entry Law Enforcement Training Academy graduates as well as the A.A.S. Law Enforcement graduates were also included.