When the COVID-19 pandemic changed the definition of “normal life” last year, school systems across the state and nation — including Warren County Schools — faced the decision about how to celebrate the Class of 2020 while protecting students and their families from the virus that had engulfed the world.

This year, graduation festivities will take on a more traditional atmosphere in Warren County as a joint ceremony for seniors at all three high schools in the local public school district will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 5.

Seniors at Warren County High School, Warren Early College High Schools and Warren New Tech High School will celebrate graduation together at the Warren County High School football field.

However, precautions will still need to be observed to make sure that everyone can safely experience the excitement of the day.

Warren County Schools Chief Operations Officer Andre Stewart said that, due to outdoor capacity restrictions related to the pandemic, each graduate will receive four tickets for inviting guests. However, he noted, if government regulations concerning capacity limits are revised, the number of tickets per students could change.

Allowing students to sit together for a graduation ceremony represents a drastic change from last year, when North Carolina’s public schools closed their doors in the spring due to increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases across the state. Virtual and drive-through graduations became the norm.

Warren County Schools held a drive-through ceremony for all graduating seniors on the grounds of WCHS. The commencement enabled students to don their caps and gowns, hear traditional graduation remarks from school system and school representatives and step out of their vehicles long enough to pick up their diplomas. Students were able to celebrate this milestone with family members, if in a different way — with loved ones gathered in a vehicle instead of in a gym.  

As more people received COVID-19 vaccines and COVID case numbers declined, the state’s public schools began to reopen their doors this spring with precautions in place. Warren County Schools followed suit, allowing students the choice of in-person or virtual learning.

The school system continues to monitor COVID-19 data, health and safety guidelines, and regulations concerning capacity limits. Stewart noted that these could have an impact on the number of guests that graduating seniors will be able to have at the 2021 ceremony.

He noted that details about graduation are taking shape. Speakers are expected to include Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Young, Board of Education Chairwoman Ebony Talley-Brame, and principals and valedictorians representing each high school. Additional information will become available as the ceremony date approaches.