Macie Rabon picked up her cap and gown from Aynor High School Thursday, but she has no place to wear them.
There will be no traditional graduation ceremonies in Horry County this year.
“I’m very disappointed in our county," she said. "It’s just not fair."
After Gov. Henry McMaster closed schools for the remainder of the semester because of COVID-19, Horry County Schools Superintendent Rick Maxey announced Wednesday that graduations in the district would be virtual this year, with further details to come from each high school at a later time.
"This spring is an unprecedented one, not only for us locally, but for our state, our country, and the world," the superintendent said. "Consequently, we have had to alter our lives individually and socially to combat the impact of the COVID-19 virus."
Maxey mentioned in his April 22 video that the schools and district would be highlighting seniors on websites and social media through the month of May.
School board chairman Ken Richardson said he will look at all options for seniors.
“My job is to look at every possible scenario and come up with the best solution I can for the seniors,” Richardson said. “I have reached out to other school board chairmen in other states and I am taking everything they are telling me under consideration at this time.”
Rabon, an AHS senior who plans to attend Wofford College in the fall, hopes an alternate option for graduation can be implemented.
“Some students may be the first in their family to graduate from high school," Rabon said. "It’s a milestone for so many students and families. Even if it comes to only seniors being present and the parents watching [online] … just the physical aspect of being there and getting to walk across the stage [is important].”
Abigale Acerbi, a Conway High School senior, took to social media to voice her thoughts, saying the Class of 2020 is anything but ungrateful.
“We as a class have been through some tough things and we have pushed through them all,” Acerbi said. “In March, we were blind to the fact that we would be having our last day as seniors without us even knowing it. We have been stripped of all the unforgettable moments that come with being a senior, such as elementary school walkthroughs, academic signing day, senior awards, and most importantly our graduations. We deserve so much more than an online graduation.”
North Myrtle Beach High School senior Jennings Hall said the news about having virtual graduations was a slap in the face, especially after already having had bad news that morning about school being closed for the year.
Hall said she understands why schools are closing and why it would be hard to go back, but she thinks the district made a hasty decision about graduation in April when ceremonies usually don’t happen until late May or early June.
“When I watched that video [of Dr. Maxey], I just could not believe what I was hearing,” Hall said. “It was just devastating and disappointing to me. Our school district is amazing, I’ve always loved being an HCS student. When I heard that, I was completely disappointed.”
She said she broke down after seeing the video, and also said the decision was made too quickly.
“It was the last moment of hope, almost, to get something normal,” she said. “It’s a punch in the face to see him push us to the side and say on April 22 that it’s going to be virtual. Very disrespectful to the entire class of 2020. I will never forget that. It’s mindblowing to me. It felt as if they were just trying to get the school year over with as quickly as possible so they could worry about the next one.”
Hall and her friends started a petition called "Let Horry County Students Graduate." As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had over 1,000 signatures.
They hope those signatures will let the district know there are alternatives for graduation that will still let them have the forever memory without simply relegating them to a computer screen.
Faith Davis has a shot at being the valedictorian for Aynor High this year.
“When I found out that senior year was officially canceled, I had [graduation] in mind but I truly thought that especially Horry County Schools would go out of their way to do something special for their seniors. I was really shocked and honestly I just started crying,” Davis said. “Yesterday was full of bad news … I feel that greater measures can be taken by our communities, schools, and district to honor seniors. Taking photo or video and uploading it online is not how any of us planned to end the year, and I don’t feel personally that it honors everything we’ve worked for.”