Freeport High School students react to graduation plans

Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 8:18 PM CDT
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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The class of 2020 has been through a lot this year, and after having most of their senior events and activities abruptly canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, many were looking forward to an in-person graduation.

“The past four years we’ve all worked very hard, our teachers have always said, ‘all the work that you put in will all be worth it when you walk across the stage and throw your hats in the air with your friends,’” said Adelle Strickland, Vice President of Freeport High School’s Senior Class.

The 108 Freeport High School seniors were given a survey months ago, asking if they would like a drive-in ceremony, a virtual ceremony, or an in-person one at a later date.

“I felt blindsided,” said Grace Garringer, a Freeport High School senior.

"Out of 50 people that I asked, maybe two people said drive-in," said Strickland.

Seniors said they feel like they didn't get the option they wanted when they were sent another questionnaire few days ago, asking if they would participate in the drive-through graduation or whether students just wanted to pick up their diplomas and not have a ceremony.

“I want to be able to walk across the stage and I want to be able to have the opportunity, but if it’s just going to be a drive-through I don’t really want to go,” said Garringer.

Some parents said even amid the recent spike in cases in our area, a traditional ceremony can still happen with additional safety measures.

“As a local you definitely want to take precautions, but I think there are ways to do that. Bay County’s doing it, Okaloosa County’s doing it, why can’t Walton County also do it safely?” said Ruth Pearce, a parent of a Freeport High School senior.

Freeport High School’s principal emailed parents stating the “safety of students and their families is a top priority” and that they will make a final decision next week.

Walton County School District officials said the decision for graduation ceremonies is left up to each school to decide.

“I know it’s no one’s fault in particular that this is happening, but it doesn’t feel right to just have a drive-in graduation,” said Strickland.

South Walton High School students and parents can choose between an in-person graduation or a drive-in graduation.

In DeFuniak Springs, the Walton High School principal said they haven't made a decision yet.

Paxton High School had a drive-in graduation already, but still may have in-person ceremony in late July.

Copyright 2020 WJHG. All rights reserved.

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