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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

York County School Division creates plans to host outdoor commencement ceremonies

(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)

While many high school seniors across the country are facing disappointment at not having in-person graduation ceremonies, York County School Division has devised a plan to make sure students still have a special day.

Division officials announced its new plans for a drive-in commencement ceremony for students and families. The class of 2020 will have an outdoor ceremony from June 10-12 at the Bailey Field and Bruton High School parking lots. The ceremonies will also be live-streamed for those watching at home.

The graduation ceremonies will be as scheduled:

  • York River Academy, 6 p.m. on June 10 at Bailey Field parking lot.
  • Bruton High School, 9 a.m. on June 11, Bruton High parking lot.
  • York High School, 6 p.m. on June 11, Bailey Field parking lot.
  • Grafton High School, 9 a.m. on June 12, Bailey Field parking lot.
  • Tabb High School, 6 p.m. on June 12, Bailey Field parking lot.

The times for the ceremonies were scheduled to avoid the hottest parts of the day and to prevent any traffic issues, officials said.

Locations were chosen as the best to fit multiple vehicles for each student. However, while Grafton, Tabb and York High Schools use Bailey Field for events, Bruton High School does not so it was decided the BHS ceremony would be best at its home parking lot.

The ceremony will maintain the traditional aspects of a commencement, with students walking across stage, speeches and the presence of peers and loved ones.

“I know this is not the end to your senior year you expected,” said YCSD Superintendent Victor Shandor. “You have experienced a year unlike no other and you have risen to the challenges with a resilience that serves as an inspiration to future classes.”

Graduates will be given passes for up to two vehicles to attend the ceremony, which includes a senior-family car in the primary lot and a guest car in other designated locations. Families are encouraged to decorate senior-family cars with positive and inspirational messages.

During a certain point in the ceremony, the senior-family cars will be directed through the parking lots and toward the stage. The senior will walk across stage, receive their diploma and have a professional photo taken.

Once all the seniors have received their diplomas and returned to their cars, they will be invited to step outside the car and participate in the ceremonial turning of the tassels. 

All other guests are required to stay in their vehicles during the ceremony.

Senior-family cars will exit the parking lot after the ceremony. The school division has asked the community to decorate their yards with signs and school colors so graduates can see them as they return home.

Each high school is also planning special events and activities for seniors and provides a last visit to their home schools. More information of each school’s plans will be given to individual families.

The division’s new graduation plan was created after surveying what families and students thought would be important in a commencement ceremony. The survey showed the community wanted an opportunity for students to celebrate with peers, to walk across stage and to allow loved ones to attend.

Officials said there was an overwhelming amount of feedback from the community to want the ceremonies to take place in June because there isn’t a prediction on when a more traditional ceremony would be able to happen.

The division decided to go with an outdoor ceremony in order to maintain social distancing protocols. While smaller, individual indoor ceremonies were also an option, officials decided they did not align with the desires of students. 

The division has planned back-up dates for the ceremonies for June 13, 24, 26 but every effort will be made to host the event on the currently scheduled date.


Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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