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Hillsborough County Schools to hold virtual graduation ceremonies

Increasing COVID-19 cases prompted officials to change plans from in-person graduation events to virtual festivities.

TAMPA, Fla. — In-person graduation ceremonies for Hillsborough County students will not happen after all because of spiking COVID-19 cases.

Instead, they'll all be online.

The district previously announced hosting events in July inside the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall. Superintendent Addison Davis talked about those plans just about a week ago.

Since then, however, and throughout the month of June, climbing COVID-19 daily caseloads in Hillborough County and statewide forced school officials to rethink those plans.

"I recognize that each of our graduates worked tremendously hard during their Senior year and this is not the outcome we wanted for them," said Davis in a news release Tuesday. "It has always been our goal to give our seniors a traditional graduation ceremony, where friends and family can share in their big moment. 

"We hoped by July that cases would be trending downward, but that is not the case."

He said the district looked into graduation ceremonies at each high school stadium, but the seating arrangements "world prove even more difficult" to follow social distancing guidelines. It also explored other outdoor venues but the cost to rent and sanitize them after each ceremony "was not fiscally possible."

Hillsborough County Public Schools and health officials are in agreement there should be no large gatherings right now, the district said.

In the meantime, the district said it is working with a vendor to create virtual graduation videos to be shared with families and each high school will have drive-through diploma ceremonies with social distancing measures.

RELATED: School districts across Tampa Bay plan for August reopening

RELATED: Pasco County Schools announce new, in-person alternative graduations

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