Some parents upset with Guilford County Schools graduation date changes

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — It’s a big day in any family: the day a child graduates from high school and begins to embark on their adult journeys.

But for some Guilford County families, it’s a day some family members won’t be able to witness, and a day that could be very costly.

There was a major schedule change for graduation dates in the spring.

Before the pandemic, Guilford County Schools’ graduation ceremonies were held back-to-back over the course of three days.

To allow for in-person, COVID-safe graduations this year, district leaders are spreading out the 28 different graduations over a nine-day period.

A spokesperson with the school system told FOX8 they alerted everyone of the changes as soon as the details were confirmed.

But families told FOX8 it wasn’t soon enough.

“Twelve years of school is a lot. It’s more than I did. I’m very proud of him,” Stephen Taylor said.

He wanted nothing more than to see his son graduate from Western Guilford High School.

Taylor was planning to make a cross-country drive from Arizona to Greensboro for the occasion.

“[Then] they changed the dates from June 5 at 8 a.m. to June 7 at 8.m.,” he said. “We already rented our Air BnB for Friday and Saturday. We were leaving Sunday.”

Guilford County Schools leaders made the announcement of the schedule changes on Tuesday.

For in-person ceremonies to occur at the Greensboro Coliseum, a district spokesperson told FOX8, they had to allow ample time in-between graduations for Coliseum staff to clean.

That meant spreading out the ceremonies to different days.

“You should not change it six weeks before it happens,” Taylor said. “People have already set in stone what they’re going to do and made big plans.”

That last-minute decision is also what bothers Weaver Academy mom Dawn Drazek.

“We were given the original graduation date back in October,” she said.

Her daughter and a group of friends at various GCS high schools have been saving and planning a trip to Disney World since seventh grade.

After the pandemic and an abnormal senior year, the students were excited to have some fun.

“They had some light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “They had something to look forward to. And we’re throwing a wrench in it.”

The graduation schedule change shifted their plans.

“At least one of the students is scheduled to graduate after our flight leaves,” Drazek said.

Drazek and Taylor told FOX8 there’s a financial impact to changing the schedule.

“A [plane] ticket that was $80 four months ago is now back up to a $200 plane ticket,” Drazek said.

“I spent about $600 on Air BnB to not even see [my son] get his diploma,” Taylor said.

These parents wish the district was more communicative to families.

“Even if we would have known, two months ago, that it would be the plan [to change], we would have been able to plan for this,” Drazek said. “We could have potentially put a hold on things and re-evaluate the situation. And now it’s not enough time.”

Drazek added that she doesn’t want to sound ungrateful. She told FOX8 she’s so happy that her daughter can finish her high school career with some semblance of normalcy.

A spokesperson with the school system told FOX8 it was always stated that the graduation dates were subject to change and that many families are letting administrators know they are thrilled to have in-person graduations this year, unlike in 2020.

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