Parents watch online as Fort Mill graduates receive diplomas

FORT MILL, S.C. — Fort Mill High School graduates got their diplomas Thursday, but their families weren’t cheering them on in person.

While 576 students finally got the chance to walk across the stage, their families were at home, watching on Youtube.

When school officials asked the class of 2020 what they wanted for graduation, they said they wanted to celebrate together, in person and that’s what they did.

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Students sat 6 feet apart while they waited on their names to be called, filling up most of the football field.

Only graduates and some staff were allowed at the ceremony.

Lauren Moses watched her firstborn daughter walk from her cell phone. It was bitter sweet.

“I got emotional last year thinking about this moment, this year. Just thinking about what i’m gonna do when they say her name ya know. How I’m gonna celebrate. So it is sad that I can’t see my baby walk across that stage,” she said.

Yet, Moses was also grateful that the school had any commencement ceremony at all.

“We’ve got some friends in Charlotte, and to see the virtual thing they’re doing, I’m glad we’re not doing that,” she said.

The Fort Mill School district said it spent weeks coming up with a graduation plan.

“It really was important that they get to come in and be together and be a class for this event,” Burke said.

The district felt because of the large class size, they couldn’t allow families into the stadium and still practice safe social distancing.

“I personally feel sad that they didn’t get a chance to have prom, and didn’t get a chance to have spring sports, but we’re hoping we can give them at least the best possible memories to come out of this with,” Burke said.

Fort mill police guarded the entrances to campus, making sure only students drove in. Parents watched on online, and waited to return and pick up their graduates or waited for them to come home.

Christine Figueroa waited off campus to watch her daughter graduate. Though it wasn’t ideal, she said this class has been through a lot -- even from birth.

“They were the 9-11 babies, this class was. They grew up in the mess of all that,” she said. “I think they’re going to make an impact on the world.”

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She said it was OK to watch her daughter on a computer screen, and see her up close when she walked up and got her diploma.

“It is what it is. You have to take the times and move forward with it. They did a great job,” she said.

Nation Ford High School will hold it’s graduation ceremony Friday morning, in the exact same way.

The school district did hear complaints from parents about the graduation plan. In response, the district set up a picture day for every student on campus last week. Each student got to pose with family and school staff for a professional photographer. Those pictures are free.

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