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Virtual ceremonies to kick off after coronavirus pandemic pushes Howard County’s graduations online

Pre-recorded virtual graduations for the Howard County Public School System’s 12 county high schools and Cedar Lane School will begin streaming online Thursday through Tuesday on a staggered schedule.

The traditional, in-person ceremonies were canceled back in April because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which also closed schools in the county and state through this academic year. Each school will hold in-person celebrations “when health guidelines allow for closer contact,” according to the school system website.

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People can view the celebrations at hcpss.org no more than 10 minutes prior to each scheduled date/time. They also will be broadcast on television (Channel 42 on Verizon and Channel 95 on Comcast).

The online ceremonies were pre-recorded to limit the risk of complications that a livestreamed graduation could have, according to a news release from the school system.

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“Virtual graduations will be pre-recorded due to concerns with online connection stability, to prevent unwelcome interruptions by people looking to digitally interrupt the special celebration, and to eliminate the risk of inappropriate words or actions being broadcast live,” the release states.

The ceremony schedule is as follows:

  • Mt. Hebron — 10 a.m. Thursday
  • River Hill — 2 p.m. Thursday
  • Centennial — 6 p.m. Thursday
  • Oakland Mills — 9 a.m. Friday
  • Wilde Lake — noon Friday
  • Marriotts Ridge — 3 p.m. Friday
  • Cedar Lane School — 9 a.m. Monday
  • Reservoir — noon Monday
  • Hammond — 3 p.m. Monday
  • Atholton — 6 p.m. Monday
  • Glenelg — 10 a.m. Tuesday
  • Long Reach — 2 p.m. Tuesday
  • Howard — 6 p.m. Tuesday

The virtual graduations will include student speeches and performances, remarks from County Executive Calvin Ball and schools Superintendent Michael Martirano, diploma awarding by a Board of Education member and the turning of the tassels.

During the virtual graduation, each student will either have their graduation picture or a short video with no audio shown as their name is announced.

The school system originally announced its plans on April 27 to hold virtual graduation ceremonies due to the coronavirus pandemic, with additional plans for online senior awards events and future in-person celebrations. A few days later, Martirano and Anissa Dennis, chief school management and instructional leadership officer, clarified at a Board of Education meeting that the virtual graduations do not mean the schools can’t have traditional, in-person commencements in the future.

Martirano said during a May 14 school board meeting that decisions were made with safety as the main factor, adding that the school system had to balance the coronavirus pandemic, the large number of graduates Howard County will have (approximately 4,200), and orders from the governor and the county executive into its calculations.

Archived videos of the online graduations will be available soon after each ceremony’s end at hcpss.org/commencements, according to the school system.

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