Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

In-person commencement returns for county high schools

Schools in Henderson County are slowly approaching a more normal end of the year in 2021 as high schools plan graduations, spring productions and other events to honor and acknowledge students.


“I’m happy with the end of the year. I’m excited we got back to some normalcy under Plan A,” West Henderson High School Principal Luke Manuel said. “We’re glad to see our students.”
Middle and high school students in the county returned to full-time, in-person learning under the state’s Plan A option in March.
Other recently relaxed Covid-19 restrictions in North Carolina also mean schools will hold graduation ceremonies in the county on May 28 that will look similar to past graduations with seniors receiving their diplomas outdoors, except for Hendersonville High School, which holds its graduation in the gym. Last year, high school graduation was a drive-through event with families watching from cars as graduates received diplomas one at a time.
Graduation at East, North and West Henderson high schools this year will return to their tradition of holding graduation in the schools’ athletic stadiums. Covid restrictions mean each stadium will be filled at half capacity. The number of tickets each graduate receives for guests will be limited to meet those guidelines depending on the size of each stadium. The rain date for the three graduations is May 29, according to information on the school system’s website.
Henderson County’s Career Academy and its Early College will hold graduation ceremonies at the Innovative High Schools campus at Mud Creek Baptist Church.
“The nice thing about how we have always done graduation is we have these large, outdoor facilities,” said Molly McGowan Gorsuch, the school system’s public information officer.
Hendersonville High School’s graduation will take place at Jim Pardue Gymnasium. Space for guests will also be limited for the indoor ceremony.
The tradition of holding graduation outdoors in Henderson County and the capacity of both the indoor and outdoor locations helped school leaders plan for the in-person ceremonies this year.

In another step toward normalcy, some high schools in the county allowed students to participate in spring theatrical productions this year.
Students interested in drama at Hendersonville High School filmed a movie rather than putting on the traditional senior play.
The movie, based on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” will be shown in the school auditorium at 5 p.m. May 14 and 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. May 15. Tickets are $5.
Theater teacher Todd Weakley said the movie came about after Covid restrictions in place in January and February, when the school typically begins planning its spring play, made it clear a play would not be possible.
“I started to reconfigure and see if there was anything we could do,” he said.
Weakley quickly ditched the idea of staging or filming Bye Bye Birdy, the play he thought he might offer in 2021, and began considering a production that didn’t require copyright considerations and one that could be filmed mostly outside.
He settled on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the idea of filming outdoors in short intervals with as much social distancing as possible.
“We found a way to be safe and we found a way to create a senior play experience,” he said.
Students utilized equipment in Hendersonville High’s digital media classes to produce the movie with cameras and lights and sound equipment.
“It’s a blast,” Weakley said. “We are like a little film crew.”
East Henderson staged a play based on daytime soap operas earlier in the spring. West Henderson is planning a production for later in May. North Henderson will not stage a spring play this year.
Other traditional end-of-year events are also planned at the high schools this year.
“We’re trying to make it as normal as possible,” East Henderson Principal Brandon Scott said. “We are just focusing on doing as many things as possible as we have always done.”
East and the other high schools will hold assemblies to honor seniors and top scholars this year. And seniors at the high schools again have the option on May 21 to walk through their former elementary schools in their caps and gowns.
“It’s a very cool start to finish,” Scott said of the walk-through.
East seniors will also be treated to the school’s annual picnic on the football field where they “just hangout” while being served hamburgers and chips.
West seniors were treated to a special breakfast this spring and will have special signs made for their yards.
North Principal John Shepard said probably the most normal part of the last few weeks of the 2021 school year is just the sights and sounds of students in the school’s classrooms and hallways.
“When you don’t have kids in the building, it feels awkward,” he said.
The 100-year move up ceremony at Hendersonville High School will look a little different this year due to Covid-19 restrictions that limit the number of people allowed in the school’s auditorium.
The entire student body along with parents typically attend the ceremony on the morning of graduation but only 430 of the auditorium’s 864 seats may be used this year under the state’s COVID safety guidelines, according to Hendersonville High Principal Bobby Wilkins. Only juniors and seniors will attend the ceremony in person this year. It will be offered online for others.
The traditional Move Up ceremony includes awarding scholarships to seniors and recognizing other important achievements of students, Wilkins said. At the end of the ceremony, juniors sing a song to the senior class. The senior class then sings to the juniors before leaving the auditorium. Once the seniors leave, the juniors then move up into the seats of the seniors, officially becoming the new senior class.
“It’s an emotional, neat time,” Wilkins said. “It’s a memory they have for the rest of their lives.”
Here is the schedule for graduations this year on Friday, May 28:
• East Henderson High, 7 p.m., (E.L. Justus Field)
• Henderson County Career Academy, 5:30 p.m., Mud Creek Baptist Church
• Henderson County Early College 7:00 p.m., Mud Creek Baptist Church
• Hendersonville High, 6 p.m., (Jim Pardue Gymnasium)

• North Henderson High, 6 p.m., (Glenn C. Marlow Stadium)

• West Henderson High, 7:30 p.m., (Johnson Stadium)