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'Seniors, our hearts are breaking for you': York County schools cancel graduations

Several York County school districts have already canceled graduation or prom following the governor's order Thursday to close schools for the remainder of the year.

Dallastown Area officials said no to a "traditional" graduation ceremony on June 2 and canceled senior prom but say they are hard at work on alternative plans.

"This may include a virtual commencement ceremony which mirrors our traditional commencement ceremony in as many ways as possible," said high school Principal Zachary Fletcher in a message to students Thursday.

Graduates toss their caps during the York Suburban High School graduation ceremony Thursday, May 26, 2016. Amanda J. Cain photo

The idea would be to ensure students still receive recognition for their hard work — with caps and gowns, senior yard signs and a diploma display of some kind, he said.

Other districts are also searching for nontraditional ways to hold senior events, though most have not made decisions yet.

More:State orders Pa. schools to remain closed for the rest of the academic year

West York Area Principal Carrie Jones tweeted on Thursday that her district has been consulting with class officers.

"Seniors, our hearts are breaking for you ... let’s work together to give you the celebration you deserve!" she said.

Schools were originally closed for just two weeks, through March 30; then Gov. Tom Wolf extended the closure until April 9. 

But mounting cases of the novel coronavirus pushed him and state health officials to extend closures through the remainder of the school year out of an abundance of caution.

School administrators were reluctant to share the news of the announcement because they knew what it would mean for the senior class.

"As the past few weeks progressed, I began to dread the possibility that I may have to send this email," Fletcher said in his note to students Thursday.

Eastern York Superintendent Joseph Mancuso tweeted his regret for his own daughter, while also recognizing his district's seniors.

Two districts have canceled commencement so far — Dallastown Area and York Suburban — and others are considering their options.

"No final decisions have been made regarding prom, graduation, athletics, and other school-related events," said Spring Grove Area Superintendent George Ioannidis in a community letter.

He said officials are still determining how the state-mandated closure will affect the school community.

South Western — which already made plans to reschedule its prom at the end of March — is the only district in the county so far with plans to continue with a traditional graduation ceremony on May 29.

More:With Pa. schools now closed indefinitely, what happens with proms and graduations?

But administrators will be formulating alternative plans in the coming weeks, should social distancing guidelines be extended, officials said.

As of April 5, West Shore's proms for Cedar Cliff and Red Land high schools have been rescheduled to May 23 and May 30, respectively. 

It's unknown whether the new order from the governor on school closures will affect those dates.

York County School of Technology canceled its May 8 prom, and class advisers are surveying juniors and seniors on new plans and dates.

State Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said districts are free to make decisions locally on holding graduation, as long as they adhere to the governor's guidelines for gatherings.

Hanover Area School District in Luzerne County is hosting its graduation at a drive-in theater in June.