School board OKs CHS, WCHS graduations, ECHS plans up in air

County Board of Education attorney Neil Whitford speaks during an emergency school board meeting Thursday that addressed high school graduation ceremonies. (Cheryl Burke photo)

BEAUFORT — While commencement exercises are set for two county high schools next week, plans are still being ironed out at East Carteret High School.

During an emergency Carteret County Board of Education meeting Thursday, members approved “hybrid” ceremonies scheduled for next week at West Carteret High School and Croatan High School.

However, since ECHS had proposed as one of its options a semi-traditional ceremony outdoors Friday, June 5, the school board approved only allowing ECHS to hold such a ceremony after Wednesday, July 1, if Gov. Roy Cooper’s phase three reopening plan takes effect at that time.

Following the meeting, held via Zoom, ECHS Principal Deborah Trogdon said in an email to the News-Times her school’s committee would meet at 9 a.m. Friday to discuss how to proceed in light of the school board’s vote.

“East Carteret High School will continue making plans for a special celebration for our seniors and their families. High school graduation is a special and memorable event for the entire community and our focus is to provide a unique and safe ECHS graduation for our Senior Class of 2020.

“Our graduation committee is meeting tomorrow morning to finalize our commencement plans which will be announced and posted on our website shortly thereafter,” she continued. “We appreciate the patience and support of our community and families through this challenging time.”

She further stated, “At this time, we feel that we need to hold a Hybrid ceremony for those students who 1 - may be leaving for military service early or 2 - choose to not be exposed to a larger type crowd,” Ms. Trogdon said. “Those details will be ironed out tomorrow morning. We want to be flexible this year and sensitive to the needs of everyone.”

As for WCHS, its graduation involves small groups of students coming into the auditorium to receive diplomas from 4 to 7 p.m.  Tuesday. The entire ceremony will be videotaped, then broadcast at 6:30 p.m. June 5 on the school system’s Facebook page and website. Pre-recorded speeches by students, instructors and administrators will be included during the broadcast.

At CHS, the ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. June 5 outdoors. A stage will be set up outside, with students and families remaining in their vehicles. Families will tune in to a radio station as the program is broadcast from the stage. As each student’s name is called, the family will drive up to the podium, where the student will get out and receive their diploma.

During the Thursday special meeting, BOE Chairperson John McLean said it’s been a difficult decision for the board.

“We all wish we could have had a traditional graduation, but our job is to protect our students and system staff,” he said.

Mr. McLean then read a resolution developed by board attorney Neil Whitford that outlined the board’s stance regarding commencement exercises. Part of the resolution stated: “All high schools are permitted to have hybrid ceremonies that are compliant with the governor’s executive orders for ‘mass gatherings’ which, as of the date of this resolution, generally prohibit the gathering of more than ten people indoors or more than twenty-five people outdoors in one location without adequate protection from the spread of the virus.”

During the meeting, Mr. Whitford said Gov. Cooper’s phase two reopening plans that recently took effect “didn’t intend to open up schools for traditional graduations.”

As for stipulations for ECHS if the school opts to wait for a semi-traditional ceremony after July 1, the resolution states the ceremony would need to take place outdoors on an athletic field or other open space with sufficient space to accommodate social distancing.


Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

(2) comments


Good planning and leadership executed @ Croatan & West. Obviously not the case with Ms Trogdon at East.


Not surprising. Mind reading lawyer knows what governor intended and drives the final legalese nail into senior year coffin. Phase 2 executive order specifically exempted educational institutions from gathering clause and left it to local leaders. So lazy. So sad. Way to go adults.

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