Providence to hold 11 online graduation ceremonies in late June

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — All 11 public high schools in Providence will have virtual graduation ceremonies at the end of June, according to new plans released by the district Wednesday.

The Providence Public School Department has contracted with vendor Herff Jones/Marching Order to produce the 11 ceremonies, according to a letter sent to graduating seniors.

The company will be paid $22,000 to produce the 11 separate ceremonies, according to spokesperson Laura Hart.

The virtual ceremonies will recognize each graduate individually and allow students to submit video clips to be part of the production, according to the letter. There will also be speeches from the valedictorians and other speakers.

Some school districts have made other plans for socially distant commencement ceremonies, such as “drive-in” graduations where everyone stays in their cars, a method that is allowed under guidance from the R.I. Department of Education.

But Providence will stay virtual for the ceremonies, allowing students to pick up their caps, gowns and diplomas ahead of time. Spokesperson Laura Hart said a drive-in model wouldn’t be fair in Providence, where not all students or families have cars.

“We wanted to make sure everybody had the same opportunities,” Hart said at Wednesday’s school board meeting. She also said the district didn’t want all 11 schools planning different types of ceremonies.

“We wanted equity,” Hart said. She added that the district has also been honoring seniors in other ways with a virtual prom on a local radio station, and lawn signs and banners for graduating students.

Hart also pointed out that the virtual ceremony will allow family members from all over the country to watch live, rather than a limit that would be placed on an in-person graduation.

In the letter to families, Superintendent Harrison Peters said the virtual ceremonies prioritize safety.

“I realize that when the Class of 2020 began its senior year in September, no one envisioned a situation where graduation would take place virtually and where classmates would not be able to stand shoulder to shoulder as they lined up to receive their diplomas,” Peters said. “We all feel this loss. What I have learned during my short time as turnaround superintendent, however, is that our students are as strong as they are resilient.”

All of the graduations will now take place in the last two weeks of June. The dates and times are as follows:

  • E-Cubed Academy: Monday, June 22 at 4 p.m.
  • Hope High School: Monday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex: Tuesday, June 23 at 4 p.m.
  • Classical High School: Tuesday, June 23 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Evolutions High School: Wednesday, June 24 at 4 p.m.
  • 360 High School: Wednesday, June 24 at 4 p.m.
  • Central High School: Wednesday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School: Thursday, June 25 at 4 p.m.
  • Academy for Career Exploration: Thursday, June 25 at 4 p.m.
  • Mt. Pleasant High School: Thursday, June 25 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Providence Career and Technical Academy: Monday, June 29 at 4 p.m.

The video ceremonies will also be available on demand after the initial live streaming event.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

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