Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) high school principals conducted a 2021 graduation planning survey between Sept. 17-23 asking the Class of 2021, their parents and school staff to weigh in on ceremony options in the spring. The majority of the 2,805 respondents indicated, if health conditions permit, they would prefer a traditional over a virtual ceremony with an in-person option for the Class of 2021.

The survey asked what graduation ceremony format respondents preferred and the number of guests they would like to invite.

The majority of the CCPS Class of 2021 students and parents indicated they prefer a traditional graduation ceremony over a virtual ceremony. There were 1,837, or 65 percent of respondents, who selected a formal graduation, while 968, or 35 percent, chose the virtual option. Traditional graduation was the respondents’ preference from all seven high schools, with parents and students choosing a conventional option and high school staff members overwhelmingly selecting a virtual ceremony.

The survey’s goal was to give principals a better understanding of the Class of 2021’s hopes for its spring ceremonies so they could begin planning. Last school year, conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic prohibited traditional graduation ceremonies. Schools participated in virtual ceremonies that included an in-person option where students dressed in graduation attire, walked across a stage at their homeschool and received their diploma.

Based on the survey results, high school principals indicated they would begin to plan for traditional ceremonies at the Convocation Center at North Point High School. However, principals said they would also develop back-up plans if health conditions again prompt a virtual ceremony. Challenges could include social distancing rules that do not allow all graduates to sit together on the Convocation Center’s floor and severe limitations on the number of guests. The majority of survey respondents, 56 percent, indicated they would like to invite more than five guests.

There were two possible graduation options on the survey—traditional or virtual graduation. Traditional graduation allows a school’s entire Class of 2021 to come together for a formal graduation ceremony at the Convocation Center at North Point. Virtual graduation occurs at the graduate’s home school. It includes an in-person portion that allows the graduate to have their name called, walk across the stage, receive their diploma and take photographs.

 Schools are unable to hold traditional graduation ceremonies at their schools due to a lack of space and opportunities to readjust in the event of severe weather conditions.

While graduation dates are included in the 2020-21 Parent Handbook/Calendar, principals and staff are still considering possible dates for 2021 graduations. All graduation decisions are subject to change and will include consultation with the Charles County Department of Health and aligned with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines related to COVID-19.

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