84ºF

St. Augustine High to hold virtual graduation & in-person ceremony

District granted principals autonomy for in-person commencement events, superintendent’s office says

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The St. Johns County School District announced in early May that graduation for its eight high schools would be conducted in a virtual format amid the lingering health threat of COVID-19.

Though the graduation events are happening each night through Saturday, Christina Langston, the district’s spokesperson, told News4Jax each principal was granted a certain level of autonomy for any additional celebration.

“Our high schools have the option to do celebrations for their seniors in addition to the virtual graduations that started last week,” Langston said via email. “Principals have been meeting with their class officers, parents and staff to determine what the students want to do to commemorate their senior year.”

St. Augustine High School is the only one to take advantage of that autonomy as of the publication of this article.

The school’s announcement said that the decision to hold an in-person ceremony was made in consultation with students, parents, faculty, administrators and sponsors.

The notification made clear that the ceremony would employ social distancing practices and allow graduates to bring only four family members with them.

St. Augustine High School announces it will hold an in-person ceremony on June 17 in this message distributed to stakeholders in May 2020.
St. Augustine High School announces it will hold an in-person ceremony on June 17 in this message distributed to stakeholders in May 2020. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Superintendent Tim Forson spoke to the challenging nature of the graduation decision during final remarks in the May 12 school board meeting, which can be seen in the player below.

Some St. Johns County parents were critical of the administration’s move, saying Forson “shirked his responsibility."

"A virtual graduation was forced upon us without polling the seniors and their parents first of their wishes and desires for their once in a lifetime milestone graduation,” said Carrie Mooney, parent to a student at Nease High School. "Graduation celebrates their 12 long years of hard work, dedication and accomplishments. It deserves a dignified traditional graduation ceremony. Period.”

Nease High School announced a special event known as the “Aloha Walk," scheduled for June 26th. While the event is not billed as a commencement ceremony, it does offer seniors the chance to receive a physical diploma as they walk through the campus. Only parents are allowed to attend that event.

The full list of St. Johns County virtual graduation links can be found on the district’s website.