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Harford County high school graduations are scheduled for the last week of May in Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen

It’s official — Harford County high school seniors will have graduation ceremonies in person and outdoors at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, scheduled for the last week of May, school system officials announced Monday.

“We’re very excited to be able to do larger-group graduations,” Superintendent Sean Bulson said during a Board of Education meeting.

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Bulson said the school system signed a contract Friday to hold the ceremonies at the Aberdeen IronBirds’ home stadium. The superintendent told members of Harford’s state legislative delegation last week that the school system wanted to hold graduations at the baseball stadium, among other local venues under consideration.

Ten ceremonies have been scheduled, starting with Fallston High School at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 24. Patterson Mill High School is slated for 1 p.m. that day, followed by Aberdeen High at 6 p.m.

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Joppatowne, Harford Technical and North Harford high schools are scheduled for Tuesday, May 25, ceremonies for Havre de Grace and Bel Air High will happen Wednesday, May 26, and C. Milton Wright and Edgewood High School will go in the morning and afternoon of Thursday, May 27.

Rain dates have been set aside for Wednesday evening, Thursday evening and throughout the day Friday, May 28, according to a schedule presented to the school board by Michael O’Brien, executive director for secondary school instruction and performance.

“We’re very excited to have this opportunity,” O’Brien said. “We’re so happy for our seniors.”

Harford County’s high school Class of 2020 also had in-person graduations last year, amid the first months of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with strict health protocols in place. Graduates walked into their schools one at a time, received their diplomas, posed for pictures with immediate family members only and then walked out so the next graduate could enter.

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This year, HCPS officials plan to have ceremonies with space set aside for about 1,600 guests so people can sit in socially distanced “family pods,” O’Brien said. Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium has a seating capacity of 6,300, according to its website.

The IronBirds, an Advanced A minor league affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, are scheduled to start their 2021 season on the road May 4, with their first home stretch starting May 18, the week before HCPS graduations.

The school system will work closely with Ripken Stadium staff “to make sure these [graduation] events are as safe as we can make them,” O’Brien said.

The school system’s graduation task force, facilitated by North Harford High School principal Bryan Pawlicki, considered multiple options for outdoor ceremonies, including stadiums at schools, “but what Ripken could offer really was unprecedented for us,” O’Brien noted.

The baseball stadium has “plenty of parking,” as well as its jumbotron screen and cleaning services between each ceremony. The commencement ceremonies also can be seen online via livestream, according to O’Brien.

The majority of graduations have been held at the APG Federal Credit Union Arena on Harford Community College’s main Bel Air campus since 2013. College officials are working with HCPS on coordinating rain dates, according to O’Brien, who said HCC has been “such a great partner with us.”

He also noted how “the personal graduation experience” for last year’s graduates had been “very successful.” The school system is offering a similar personal experience for graduates and families this year if they are not comfortable with a “large scale” ceremony at the stadium. Officials will begin contacting families this week regarding graduation, according to O’Brien.

“We really see the light at the end of our tunnel for our senior class,” he said.

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