Tampa Bay school districts must find alternative to traditional graduation ceremonies

The news that schools would stay closed for the rest of the year was disappointing for a lot of students, but especially for those seniors who have worked towards graduation day for the past 12 years of their academic career. 

School districts across the Bay Area are now working hard to figure out a way to still give those seniors that graduation experience. It just might look a little different.

On Saturday, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that all students, kindergarten through 12th grade, will have to finish out their academic year virtually.

The governor ordered schools to close and online learning to begin back on March 16. Since then, the number of COVID-19 cases have continued to rise in the state. That’s why DeSantis ultimately decided it would be the safest and best option to keep schools closed to limit any possible spread of the virus. 

RELATED: Florida students will continue distance learning through rest of school year

While most people did understand and support keeping the decision, it was devastating for those seniors who have been looking forward to their graduation. 

School districts are now left to figure out a different option in place of a traditional commencement ceremony. Counties like Manatee, Sarasota and Pasco are still figuring out what that ceremony will look like.

The Pinellas County School District has already announced that their graduation will be completely virtual. They said that they’ll still hold a celebration at the schools once it is safe to do so. 

In Polk County, they’re allowing their seniors to choose between a virtual graduation, a delayed graduation date or a drive-through ceremony. The drive-through ceremony would allow students to pick up their diplomas from their car, get their picture taken inside their car while still getting the chance to hear all the normal commencement speeches take place from the safety of inside their car. 

Students in Hillsborough County will have to wait until July to officially cross the stage, as long as things go as planned. The school district has already reserved dates in July for a ceremony to be held at the Florida State Fairgrounds as long as it’s safe to do so.