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Orangeburg County School District

Petition calls for Orangeburg County School District graduations at schools

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Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School held its graduation on June 8, 2019 at Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center on the campus of South Carolina State University.

An online petition calls for Orangeburg County School District’s graduation ceremonies to be held at individual high schools.

The district currently plans to hold graduation ceremonies for its individual schools over a two-day period at South Carolina State University.

“The parents of the seniors are completely against this,” said Jacob Bonnette, who started the online petition.

OCSD officials announced the graduation plans during the district’s Nov. 9 board meeting. Ceremonies for the district’s seven high schools are planned for SCSU’s Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center on May 27 and May 28.

Missi Leviner is one of nearly 1,000 people who’ve signed the petition against the plans.

“My daughter graduated from Edisto High School in 2020,” she said. Leviner is also an alum of the school.

Her graduation ceremony and her daughter’s ceremony were held on the school’s football field.

“It’s very special,” Leviner said.

This past spring, the district’s high schools also had outdoor graduations at their respective campuses due to COVID-19 precautions.

In 2019, however, graduation ceremonies were held at the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.

At November’s board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster said that the board voted to have a central location for graduations before he became superintendent.

He noted that graduations have taken place at individual schools for the last two years due to COVID-19 precautions.

Leviner said having the outdoor ceremonies at individual schools is the way the district should handle graduations.

“Everybody’s still in a small community,” she said.

“They play football on the field, they play soccer on the field, so why can’t they have graduation on the field?” she said.

Leviner also noted that students enjoy taking photographs with their school colors represented in the background during graduation.

“It creates a memory of being at home,” she said.

Reached by phone, Orangeburg County School Board Chair Ruby Edwards said on Wednesday that she wasn’t familiar with the petition.

When asked if the board would reconsider its decision about where the district’s high schools will hold graduation ceremonies, she said, “I can’t say one way or the other.”

To view the online petition, visit this link: www.change.org/p/orangeburg-school-district-board-orangeburg-school-district-graduations-are-for-the-kids.

Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD.

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