Despite the North Carolina’s limits on large gatherings due to the COIVD-19 pandemic, the Currituck County Board of Education voted Friday to allow Currituck High School to hold a traditional graduation, with some alterations, on June 11 in Knights Stadium.
Currituck becomes the first school system in the state to set a June date for a regular commencement ceremony for the class of 2020, one day after Union County near Charlotte voted to do the same but held off on finalizing the date.
School board member Will Crodick cited the right of assembly covered under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and that the governor’s executive order exempts such gatherings in making an initial motion that the ceremony continue as planned.
Guidance from the Governor’s Office and the state Department of Public Instruction to local schools systems has been that while in Phase 2 of reopening, that a traditional ceremony should not be held due to the ban on gatherings of more than 25 people.
Discussion by board members centered around how to spread out both graduates and spectators while following social distancing guidelines, as well as staff and security.
Knapp Early College held a “drive-thru” style graduation at the parking lot of the Currituck YMCA on Thursday, with spectators sitting in vehicles and listening to audio from the stage via FM radio.
A similar set-up had been discussed for Currituck High School as part of initial plans.
Board member Janet Rose said that Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest’s office had told her that educational institutions are exempt from the mass gathering order.
“We would be the only county to go against legal counsel and the governor,” said board chairwoman Karen Etheridge during the discussion between board members, with input from administrators, that lasted almost one hour.
Concerns were also raised during the discussion about possible legal ramifications against the school system, including individual administrators.
“You can go through life and live in fear, or be free,” Crodick said.
Crodick’s final motion was to restrict spectator tickets to two per graduate, recommend masks be worn, require a waiver for those that plan to attend, that high school staff will not be required to attend.
A second ceremony would also be held at a later date for those that would not feel comfortable attending the June 11 graduation. A rain date of June 18 was also included in the motion, as moving the ceremony into Lucian Griffin Gymnasium the same day would not be an option because of its size.
The motion carried by unanimous voice vote of the five member board.
A total of 243 students are scheduled to graduate from Currituck County High School this year.