Members of the South-Western City School District's class of 2020 will get the chance to walk across a stage and receive their diplomas after all.

Seniors will receive their diplomas Saturday, May 23, in a drive-thru graduation experience that will be held at each high school site.

The principals at each of the district's four high schools announced the revised plans for graduation in notices sent to students and their families May 14.

The revised plan to hold a drive-thru ceremony at each school was recommended by a committee that included principals, student leaders and one PTO representative from each high school, Superintendent Bill Wise said.

The committee reviewed a number of options, he said.

"The goal was to balance the aspirations of our students and the community for graduation in a way that can honor their achievements after 13 years of hard work with the safety of our school community," Wise said.

May 30 was the original scheduled date for South-Western's commencement ceremonies. Each school's ceremony was to be held at a different time that day in the Celeste Center at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair, 717 E. 17th Ave. in Columbus.

In the new plan, groups of students will be assigned a window of time alphabetically by their last names to participate in the drive-thru portion of the ceremony May 23 at their school.

The drive-thru ceremonies will be held from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Grove City High School; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Central Crossing High School; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Westland High School and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Franklin Heights High School.

Only four guests will be able to accompany each graduate, and only one car per graduate will be allowed. Everyone must stay in their cars while in line, although one person will be permitted to exit the vehicle to take a picture or video as the graduate receives his or her diploma cover.

Seniors will hear their names read, walk across a raised platform, receive their diploma covers and have their picture taken.

All occupants of the vehicle will be expected to wear face coverings except the graduates, who will be encouraged to cover their faces until they have their picture taken.

The drive-thru event will be accompanied by a virtual ceremony for each school. The virtual graduation ceremony will be uploaded to each school's YouTube channel on May 30 for viewing during the school's previously scheduled graduation time.

Based on the original stay-at-home guidelines set by the Ohio Department of Health and Gov. Mike DeWine, South-Western had planned a virtual graduation ceremony only.

After the restrictions and guidelines were loosened to allow schools to hold adjusted in-person events in cooperation with their local police departments and boards of health, "we were more than willing to reconsider this topic," Sandy Nekoloff, the district's executive director of communications, said.

Grove City High School senior Natalia Figueroa led an online petition drive asking the district to consider other options than a virtual event for this year's graduation.

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