May 13, 2020
The School District of Philadelphia will hold a virtual commencement ceremony to honor the Class of 2020.
The event, which will be held June 9 at 11 a.m., will replace the graduation ceremonies that have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Superintendent William R. Hite acknowledged it won't be the same as the traditional experience high school seniors had anticipated. But with public gatherings probhibited, he said district officials are working to make the event a special one.
"We all wish we were able to hold in-person graduation ceremonies this year," Hite said during a press briefing held Wednesday on Facebook Live. "But the health and safety of our students and staff must come first."
The virtual event will include include student performances, a keynote speaker and a video tribute to seniors who have died. A virtual after-party will begin at 7 p.m.
Hite noted high school graduation is a significant milestone and sent a message to seniors: "You deserve to feel celebrated and embraced as you close out your time as a student."
But he recognized that an online ceremony may not be their preferred way of doing that.
"We realize that no virtual program will ever replace the feeling of walking across the stage with your classmates," Hite said. "Please know that the School District of Philadelphia is working ... to make sure this a memorable experience for you despite these difficult times."
The event will be broadcast on a number of platforms including PSTV and social media. Parents soon will receive customizable invitations that can be used to invite others to the online ceremony. Additional details will be released soon.
Moving Up ceremonies for fifth and eighth grade students will be handled by individual schools, Hite added. Parents with questions about these ceremonies should contact their child's principal.
Earlier in the week, Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said that he expected students would return to school in the fall. But district officials are uncertain whether in-person classes will resume at the start of the school year in Philadelphia, Hite said.
"However, we know that we will have to address the reality of students being away from school for six months when we return in the fall," Hite said.
Philly students are currently receiving online instruction, which is expected to continue until June 12.