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Gaston Grads Will Walk Across Stages. It Will Take Up To Two Weeks.

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Presentation at this week's Gaston County school board meeting.

Gaston County’s high school graduates will walk across their school stages in caps and gowns with family and friends watching. But it definitely won't be a traditional ceremony.

Like school districts across America, Gaston County is trying to create a memorable commencement that complies with coronavirus safety restrictions.

Like many other districts, Gaston polled seniors and their families about priorities. Christi Bostic, who’s in charge of high schools for the district, reported results to the school board this week.

"The three most important attributes that our students and families are looking for to celebrate this year’s graduates are: Students being able to wear their cap and gown, students being able to walk across the stage, and students being able to have some family and friends present," she said.

But large groups remain banned in North Carolina. So Gaston came up with a plan to assign each graduate a time to arrive at school with up to eight guests, walk across the stage, get a diploma and have pictures taken. Bostic estimated that will take 10 minutes each.

Gaston has 2,346 graduates at 13 high schools. Ashbrook, the largest, has just over 300.

"Based on those numbers it would take Ashbrook about two weeks, working about eight to nine hour days," Bostic said.

Ceremonies will start June 1 in order to be finished by June 13, the original graduation date. Each school will also create a video with senior photos and speeches by students and officials.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools also polled nearly 10,000 seniors, but concluded any kind of walk across the stage would be too time-consuming. CMS's largest high school, Ardrey Kell, has almost 800 graduates.

CMS decided to do video ceremonies in June, followed by drive-thru diploma pickups and in-person events in the fall.

Cabarrus County Schools and Lincoln Charter School will hold drive-up ceremonies at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Iredell-Statesville Schools will do video tributes this week, when graduations were originally scheduled, and hopes to hold in-person ceremonies Aug. 1.

Area colleges have also been using a mix of video ceremonies and delayed in-person events.

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