Full N. Atlanta grad 1 Osaze Tisdale Mitch Gerding Taylor Diamond

From left, North Atlanta High School seniors Osaze Tisdale, Mitch Gerding and Taylor Diamond relax after the class of 2018's graduation ceremony.

Atlanta Public Schools announced it plans to hold virtual graduation celebrations for the class of 2020 in May, respecting social gathering restrictions in Georgia due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. But it also plans to delay traditional ceremonies until the summer or a later safe date that adheres to Georgia Department of Health guidelines.

The district made the decision based on input from graduating seniors across all 14 high schools. Of the more than 1,650 seniors surveyed, an overwhelming percentage expressed interest for a delayed open-air (78%) or fall (71%) ceremony. Fewer said they would prefer a virtual ceremony from home (19%) or a local drive-in theater (27%) in May. Seniors originated #WorthTheWait, emphasizing their wishes to walk on stage in their caps and gowns, even if delayed.

As part of the proposal, the district will:

♦ Conduct a virtual celebration during the regular graduation season between May 18 and 21 and plan for a traditional graduation program for each school when state and department of health guidelines allow.

♦ Work with schools to coordinate creative efforts for families to engage in at their homes and with their loved ones before and during the ceremony.

♦ Coordinate diploma delivery in May through mail or some other safe distribution method.

For the traditional ceremonies, the district is looking at dates in late July using Lakewood and Grady stadiums as possible venues. If ceremonies must be delayed further, it is considering other venues or ticketed ceremonies at each school, possibly scheduling them during the Thanksgiving or winter breaks to maximize attendance of graduates and their families.

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