Atlanta Public Schools plans to hold virtual graduation celebrations for the Class of 2020 in May due to social distancing restrictions in place for COVID-19. However, APS said it plans to hold traditional ceremonies for the graduates this summer or a later safe date that adheres to Georgia Department of Health guidance.

For the traditional ceremonies, APS is considering dates in late July using Lakewood and Grady stadiums as possible venues. If ceremonies must be delayed further, the district is considering other venues or ticketed ceremonies at each school, possibly scheduling them during the Thanksgiving or winter breaks to maximize attendance of graduates and their families.

The district reached this decision based on input from graduating seniors across all 14 high schools.

Of the more than 1,650 APS seniors surveyed, an overwhelming percentage expressed interest for a delayed open-air (78%) or fall (71%) ceremony, while fewer did so for a virtual ceremony from home (19%) or a local drive-in theater (27%) in May. Seniors originated a hashtag “#WorthTheWait,” emphasizing their desires to walk on stage in their caps and gowns, even if delayed.

Virtual graduation ceremonies will be held between May 18 and 21, and APS said it would coordinate creative efforts for families to celebrate at home and would send diplomas through the mail or some other safe distribution method.

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.