FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- In a post-COVID-19 world, an old fashion in-person high school graduation is a "normal" many students and parents are eager to see this week.
Monday marked the start of graduation ceremonies at the Crown Complex for the rest of the week.
According to a Cumberland County Schools news release, 3,500 high school seniors will cross the stage.
Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly said this week was a long time coming for staff and students, especially with the entire Class of 2020 missing out on a communal celebration.
"Even in the midst of a pandemic, these young people have demonstrated, if you want to do it, you can do it," Connelly said.
Masks, physical distancing, and grouped seating will be a part of each ceremony. Connelly said cleaning crews will wipe down seats and surfaces in between each scheduled graduation.
On Monday morning, seniors from Westover High School were able to share this special moment with their classmates and family, something D'marco Dunn said wasn't a certainty earlier this year.
A month ago we didn't know if we were going to have a graduation. So, you know, to walk across the stage and have our whole class there, it meant a lot, really," Dunn said.
Yulianny Marte Moran, the salutatorian of her class, said the pandemic being a cloud over their Senior year was difficult.
"I feel like a lot of us struggled and it was very hard, but we persevered and we were intended to graduate which is...I'm really happy about it," she said.
Connelly told ABC11 that the school system's experience with this virus has allowed it to adapt and realize that online learning is another tool it can incorporate beyond this pandemic.
Bella Jones-Gonzales, another Westover High School graduate, said she is always grateful to every person who helped her get to this moment.
"I appreciate all the staff members and everybody that put forth effort to help us to get where we are today," Jones-Gonzales said.
3,500 Cumberland County School students to cross the stage for in-person ceremonies at Crown Complex