CMS superintendent to present plans for district graduation ceremonies

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston is expected to present plans for the graduation for the class of 2020.

The district has been trying to balance safety while still honoring the hard work from these soon-to-be graduates. Winston is expected to make his announcement at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

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The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education asked parents, families and students for ideas on how to honor seniors for graduation in a Facebook post.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, large gatherings such as graduation ceremonies have had to turn to alternative plans.

The CMS superintendent put together a graduation task force to help find a safe and healthy way to honor students in their graduation ceremony.

The graduation task force included high school seniors, parents, high school principals, teachers and central office staff.

“We must be creative and intentional, but we will find a way,” the CMS Board of Education said in the post.

CMS narrowed down the graduation ceremonies to three options -- none of which were in person -- and the survey ended Sunday night.

Option A would include a drive-thru celebration where students would pick up their diplomas at school.

Option B, the district would mail the diplomas instead. In option C, diplomas would also be mailed but there would also be a celebration at school when it’s safe.

Some people weren’t happy with the choices so they started a change.org petition with what they would like to see.

More than 4,000 people have signed the petition asking the district to hold ceremonies at Bank of America Stadium or at Charlotte Motor Speedway, similar to what Cabarrus County is doing.

CMS seniors Maura Crenshaw and Daikwon Redfearn said they’re disappointed.

The virtual options presented to them in the graduation survey weren’t what they were hoping for.

“We’ve all seen ourselves, futuristic, ‘Oh I cannot wait until I go across the stage, walk in and see my family so proud and rooting for me,'’” Redfearn said.

They told Channel 9 they’d like the district to consider some other options.

“The Cabarrus County school system is doing the drive in and I do understand that we have over 10,000 students it would be kind of hard to fit all these schools into one place, but I feel like there are so many big places in Charlotte they could possibly do something where we’re not coming into close contact but we’re still honoring what we have accomplished," Crenshaw said.

Parent Nancy Hommes’ youngest child is set to graduate. She was also on the CMS graduation task force.

“It’s painful and it’s very hard and it’s very emotional and it’s nothing anything that anybody wanted to happen,” she said.

Hommes shared some insight into the complex graduation process.

“Equity was a huge thing, practicality was a huge thing, there was a lot of thought put in. I get that people are disappointed, I’m disappointed, I thought well why don’t we do it at Carowinds and have a stage, well there are a lot of kids out there who don’t have access to cars who can’t get to a graduation that requires them to drive through, well why don’t we use a bus, well we can’t put more than 6 students on a bus,” she said.

She also said CMS has 31 graduations in total, with the earliest starting next week and they all have to be the same.

“I’m going to be thankful either way that I’m graduating, that I’m alive and I’m safe, but I just really hope that they can reconsider a different idea for our graduation,” Crenshaw.

The students told Chanel 9′s education reporter Elsa Gillis, that they understand equity is an issue, but they would work together to help support students overcome any barriers for an in-person option.

Hommes said delaying some of the graduations was discussed, but many students spoke up and said they wanted to graduate now and get their diploma.

Last week, CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston acknowledged this is a difficult time for students right now.

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“None of this is easy,” Winston said. “It’s not easy being a student, especially a senior during this pandemic and it’s not easy making decisions that will undoubtedly not be popular.”

Winston is set to announce a decision at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

The deadline to complete the survey ended Sunday.

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