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Graduations across Delaware high schools to run the gamut, from diplomas without mom and dad to later dates

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Betsy Price
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.

Some Cab Calloway parents have been circulating this meme to express their disappointment that they will not be able to see their children receive their diplomas at graduation

Cab Calloway School of the Arts seniors on Thursday will walk into an empty auditorium and across a stage alone to be given diplomas without guests or parents to witness it, pose for school-provided photos and return to their cars.

The magnet school’s cousin, Charter School of Wilmington, with whom Cab shares classes and other activities, plans an in-person ceremony July 31 at the 76ers FieldHouse in Wilmington.

Meanwhile, Brandywine School District parents are waiting to see if the district’s gamble in moving proms and graduations to late July will mean a more traditional celebration of both because by then the coronavirus restrictions will have been eased or lifted.


The range in decisions illustrates the confusion, uncertainty and day-by-day changes as schools try to please parents and students and still comply with Gov. John Carney’s orders to self-quarantine and social distance to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

“All of us in school leadership and even our students and families are beginning to understand that whatever the plans are today may not be the plans tomorrow,” says Bessie Speers, head of school at Tower Hill.

“Things are so fluid. Any planning we do involves multiple contingency plans, as circumstances outside of our control may demand flexibility,” said Speers.

Tower Hill seniors Elliott Reece, Gracie Bailor and Sarah Zungalia were honored by their lacrosse teammates on Sunday, when the younger students held a mini parade in front of the school for them.

Schools are choosing both virtual and in-person ceremonies, as well as splitting events between the time graduations were originally scheduled and the time to which events were moved well into summer.

Wilmington Friends School (WFS), Sanford School and Tower Hill will honor original commencement days with various activities, but postpone the actual walking and other ceremonies.

Susan Finizio, director of communications at Friends, said it has been challenging to create an experience that’s memorable for seniors and somehow relates to tradition.

“There are a lot of senior traditions and Friends, as I’m sure there are every school. And we were just trying to figure out how we could not replicate those traditions, because it’s really difficult right now, but have something for the seniors to look forward to and celebrate, even within these tight social distancing guidelines,” she said.


One of the traditions they do plan to honor is the signing of the senior scroll on Senior Day, which is May 30th. This year the event will take place with new safety precautions — like one Sharpie pen for each student. Kids and their parents will also be invited to decorate their cars and head to campus for a drive thru sequence of activities. 

Commencement at Friends is always outside — typically on the front lawn. This year the event, planned for July 18th, will move to the football field, where administrators have already begun pacing out spaces to accommodate proper spacing between students. 

Cab parent Andrea Rooney Finn finds it hard to express her disappointment about not being able to watch her son Zachary receive his high school diploma without her voice cracking with emotion. She’s not mad, but is frustrated and sad.

She acknowledges that graduations aren’t the most important thing on the planet, considering the pain, fear and loss others have suffered.

“I just feel that these kids have lost so much, and the parents, too, have lost so much, and we waited a very long time for this day, and I do not feel our school is doing justice for the kids,” she said.

Wilmington Friends senior Casey Tyler outside of the school – photo by Elisa Morris

Red Clay Consolidated School District has told Cab parents to bring their seniors to the school and park in the lot, one car only per senior. The seniors will be called when it’s their turn. Wearing a mask, they will line up 12 feet away from each other and go into the auditorium.

One by one, each will be allowed to walk across the stage, be given a diploma and leave. The event is being videotaped to be streamed on June 12. 

Parents protested, but the event is happening too quickly to change.

Finn doesn’t believe anyone will try to defy the orders and barge through security at the school. “Our parents are too respectful for that,” she says. But she does expect them to regroup after the solo walks and see what they can do as a community for their seniors.

Sanford senior Natalie Bianchi

Car parades for seniors in Brandywine School District

In Brandywine, parents are organizing car parades May 31 to celebrate the kids of each high school as they wait for news of their postponed graduation day and what form that ceremony will take.

Students will ride in the passenger or back seat of the car and wave out the window, or perhaps from a sunroof, convertible or pickup truck, says parent Courtenay Brandt. Vehicles will be decorated in school colors and the graduates will wear their caps and gowns.


Parents are asking businesses and others to put up signs, banners and balloons along the routes and to come out and cheer for the grads.

Mount Pleasant will start at noon and follow its traditional homecoming parade route, ending at the school. Concord will start at 2 pm, going down Shipley towards Naamans, turning right on Naamans, left on Ebright and ending at the school.

Brandywine will start at 4 pm from Lombardy Elementary and go down Foulk Road to the school.

Ursuline Academy seniors gathered in the fall for their group picture

Legislative Hall honors seniors with State Capitol lighting ceremony

The cupola at Legislative Hall will be lit every night through May 29th with a different combination of school colors in honor of graduating seniors. Every high school in the state will be recognized. A schedule of schools and their dates has been shared by legislators over social media.

In sharing the news they said, “Missing those commencement ceremonies and many of the celebrations that typically come with them is going to be a major sacrifice for so many young men and women who have worked hard to reach this moment and deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments.”

Legislative Hall’s cupola will be illuminated in school colors through May 29 to honor high school seniors

Here’s a breakdown of what area schools are doing:

A.I. du Pont High School

The school’s website said it will broadcast a virtual graduation ceremony June 9. The day will start with a social media takeover highlighting the seniors. 

Brandywine High School

Brandywine School District superintendent Lincoln Hohler said in a letter to parents that a proposed virtual graduation on May 31 has been canceled in the hope that the system will be able to hold a more personal graduation of some kind for its three high schools the week of July 26 to Aug. 1, 2020.

He said the system will decide by July 13 what kind of ceremony that will be. Brandywine also said on its website that its prom had been rescheduled tentatively for Friday, July 24. 

Cab Calloway School of the Arts

The seniors will receive their diplomas Thursday night. The school’s website said it will celebrate throughout the day June 12 on Cab and Red Clay social media platforms, ending with a 7 pm virtual ceremony. 


Charter School of Wilmington

If COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Charter plans to hold its prom at 7 pm July 29 at Deerfield Country Club, with a senior sunset picnic July 30 at its football field and graduation July 31 at 3:05 pm at the 76ers FieldHouse in Wilmington.

A final decision will be made about the prom and picnic July 6. If the state will not allow gatherings of more than 200 people by then, Charter will have an online graduation.

Concord High School

Concord parents and students are waiting to see what Brandywine School District will decide after moving a proposed virtual graduation on May 31 to the week of July 26 to Aug. 1, 2020. A decision will be made by July 13.

Concord’s prom was rescheduled to July 25 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront.

Parents, students and the administration didn’t want a virtual ceremony if it can be avoided, said principal Mark Mayer. “You’re just trying to think ahead and have options,” Mayer said. “It gives us all hope with trying to get as much together as we can.” He said there’s also been talk about bringing the class back for October’s homecoming.


Odyssey Charter

The school will celebrate its first high school graduation, but details were not available.

St. Elizabeth School

The school’s website says graduation will be June 1 at 7 p.m.

St. Mark’s High School

The school website indicates that a baccalaureate mass is still on for June 5, with graduation set for June 6 at 3 pm.

Hillers celebrated their seniors despite the canceled spring lacrosse season

Padua Academy

The school’s website says it will have a virtual ceremony at 7 p.m. May 28.

Saliesianum School

Spokeswoman Kimberly Chiomento said that the school has not made its graduation plans public.

Sanford School

Sanford will hold two sets of graduation ceremonies, the first a socially distant series of events on June 5 with a more traditional ceremony planned Aug. 1, if possible.

The June 5 events will start with a virtual ceremony on Zoom at 10 am. Pre-recorded speeches and performances will be played, with some traditional parts of the ceremony. That afternoon, students will decorate cars for a parade through campus.

Families are invited, and those events will end with celebrations in the Sports Center lots, with cars appropriately spaced apart. Students were asked to save traditional white dresses and tuxedos until the August ceremony.  


Tatnall has moved graduation to July 25 at 1:30 p.m. on campus, with expectations that it will be able to hold as traditional a ceremony as possible. It will include a commencement speaker, traditional cum laude speaker and presentation of traditional awards. The school plans a senior car rally and parade June 6 through Greenville and a July 24 senior dinner. Its prom was canceled. 

Tower Hill School

The school will celebrate June 5, the original day of graduation, with a Mark with Day Celebrating our Seniors. The festivities will include the awarding of diplomas, but Tower Hill also plans to have a full commencement ceremony in July.

“You know, from a planning perspective, it’s actually been kind of exciting to think about how you can honor these seniors in a differen way,” said Megan Cover, head of Tower Hill’s upper school.

A traditional baccalaureate service is set for July 23 at Christ Church with graduation on the 24 and a prom Cover said.  

Ursuline Academy

Ursuline’s website said the ideas of a virtual graduation or a drive-in one were not popular with students, parents for faculty, and it was moving its graduation date to June 28 to have the best chance of a face-to-face ceremony.

It is considering three scenarios: a traditional program with students on campus; a modified, socially distant graduation that will allow a ceremony and face-to-face programs; and a virtual ceremony. 

Wilmington Friends Senior Oryem Kilama will be playing soccer at Virginia Tech next year

Wilmington Friends School

The school pushed graduation to July 18, Head of School Ken Aldridge said in a message to parents and others. But it will celebrate its seniors May 30 with drive-through events that include presenting each senior with a swag bag, creating a class time capsule, and having students sign the senior scroll, and keep the pens with which they do.

Friends hopes to have its traditional commencement on the side lawn of Tattersall Field, but will modify the ceremony or limit indoor activities if restrictions still exist.   

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