Graduation plans for the Class of 2020

District announces walk-through graduation plans for the Class of 2020
Posted on 05/12/2020

Graduates, families will be required to wear masks


Morganton, NC – Monday, May 11, 2020


Burke County Public Schools is excited to announce plans for graduation. “The Class of 2020 deserves the best graduation ceremony that we can give them under the current circumstances,” said Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam. “It will be special, it will be classy and it will be as close to a normal ceremony as possible, with a few twists and turns.”

The graduation plans were approved by the Burke County Board of Education on Monday, May 11, and meet local, state and federal guidelines regarding COVID-19 precautions. Burke County health, emergency management and local law enforcement officials have given their approval of the plan as well. The plans are conditional and contingent on the state of COVID-19 in Burke County over the next three weeks. To participate, graduates and their family members who attend will be required to wear masks. 

The district’s seven high schools plan to hold graduation ceremonies between May 21 and May 29. The ceremonies will take place indoors and include seniors in their caps and gowns walking across a stage to Pomp and Circumstance with family members present to witness graduates accepting their diplomas.  

The ceremonies will vary from traditional graduations in that there will not be a large gathering of students, faculty or an audience all in one place at one time. The larger schools will conduct their ceremonies over several hours with students and family members arriving at the school spaced out in increments in order to practice social distancing. 

Each graduate will be allowed to bring up to nine family members with them. The families will be kept separated from one another as they enter the school and walk through various special stations set up to honor graduates before making their way to the school gymnasium or auditorium. 

“What will make this experience extra special is families will be able to walk beside their graduates through the entire process and will be right there with them as they walk across the stage,” Putnam said. “It will be unlike any other graduation in that instead of parents sitting in a sweltering football stadium on bleachers or in a cramped gym many yards away, they will be right there with a front row view of their graduate. We are sorry that the graduates will not get to experience this moment as a class with their fellow seniors, but we vow to give them the best experience possible.”  

Putnam urged graduates and family members to follow these suggestions to help make the ceremony a pleasant and memorable experience:

  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Expect a lot of walking and standing
  • Be patient
  • Resist the urge to hug or come into close contact with other graduates and families
  • Follow the directions of school staff and resource officers on campus
  • Do not loiter on campus before or after your time on stage 

Burke County Health Department Director Rebecca McLeod offered other suggestions, saying, “The schools are doing a great job in planning to make it easy for graduates and families to enjoy this day but still take the necessary precautions. We would recommend graduates carpool and bring only the family members they live with, but that is not a requirement. Graduates and family members who have fevers or symptoms of COVID-19 must stay home. Masks will be required for attendance. We encourage everyone to keep their hands to themselves and not touch others or objects and of course to wash their hands as soon as possible. Basically follow the same guidelines we have been practicing for weeks now.”

Director of Emergency Management Mike Willis said, “The school system is to be commended for offering this opportunity to this year’s graduating class. These seniors have missed out on the last half of their senior year and feel left out. At least they will be able to have this experience.”

Putnam said, “We want this to be a memorable day for all of the right reasons for each graduate and their family. We simply ask that you use common sense, pack your patience and be in the moment. This is a great opportunity to bring hope and light and restore a small sense of normalcy during these most abnormal of times. This is a right of passage that our seniors have earned, and we want to make sure it is a special day for them. Again, it is not the traditional format we are use to, but we have a chance to make the best of something new.”


Each high school will have more specific information for graduates and their families. The high school principals are developing a personal video invitation that will show parents and graduates where to park, where to enter the building and how they will proceed through the graduation walk experience. 

Here is an overall breakdown of each school’s date, time and location:

Burke Middle College

4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 21 in Leviton Auditorium on the campus of Western Piedmont Community College. 

Hallyburton Academy 

3 p.m. on Friday, May 22  in the auditorium of Heritage Middle School

Draughn High School

4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26 in the school auditorium

Patton High School

4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26 in the school auditorium

North Liberty

12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 27 in the school gym

East Burke High School

1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 28 in the school gymnasium (appointed times will be broken down based on alphabetical order). 

Freedom High School

10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 29 in the school gymnasium (appointed times will be broken down based on alphabetical order).

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