ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – While graduating seniors say they understand why it has to happen, they're still disappointed they won’t get to celebrate their achievement in person with the ones they love.
- Orange County schools will continue distance learning through May
- Plans are to hold graduations virtually
- Some parents, students say they are disappointed they can't celebrate in-person
All 212,000 students in Orange County have been doing distance learning since March 30. Orange County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins said Monday they’ve had more than a million logins for distance learning since it started. And around 1.8 million assignments have been uploaded.
Now distance learning will continue till the last day of school, May 27. Even summer school will be online throughout the month of June. That meaning seniors like West Orange High School senior Holly Wamsley won’t get to walk and receive their diploma.
“It’s my last year and everyone looks forward to this moment,” Holly said.
And that's not all she's missing. Her chorus group had to cancel a trip to Chicago for a music competition because of COVID-19.
“Now we’re just doing zoom classes, and doing online assignments, instead of getting to perform what we’ve worked so hard on,” she said.
Jenkins reminded everyone Monday of the virtual ceremonies they've planned for the first week of June.
“We will be doing virtual graduations for each of our 20 high schools,” Jenkins said.
Holly’s mother Lauryn Wamsley says family from all over the U.S. hopes to see her daughter's ceremony. But it’s unclear to them how any of that would work.
“Like how many children will you do at a time, and how will everyone see them….I don’t even know if they’ll be wearing their cap and gowns…definitely a lot of unanswered questions,” Wamsley said.
Jenkins said school principals should be getting with parents about those details. But Wamsley says they've haven't heard anything from their principal yet.
Jenkins did however announce the school system is tentatively planning an in-person ceremony in July, held at the schools’ football stadiums. Although she added it’s unlikely now that will even happen.
“My understanding is even if we get to tier 2, the recommended number would be 50, and that is not enough for a graduation,” Jenkins said.
But Wamsley says even if a June ceremony can’t happen, she’d want an in person ceremony sometime for her daughter.
“Even if it’s November, December, just something. I think they deserve it,” she said.
But when asked about that possibility, Dr. Jenkins said, “we wouldn’t push it back further than that because then you are running into our efforts to reopen school.”
While it doesn’t in any way diminish what Holly and her peers have accomplished. It does make for a tough end to high school.
“And some of us don’t even know how to feel, we haven’t processed it enough yet,” Holly said.