It is the last week of class for our K-12 school districts in Orange County, which means that graduation for the Class of 2023 is nearly here.
Graduating seniors experienced many challenges over their time in high school, including adjustments to the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual learning, but their efforts will pay off this weekend with graduation ceremonies.
Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools leaders are sharing information directly with graduating students and their families about preparation for the upcoming events, including rehearsals this week. But the weekend itself will be a busy time for everyone — especially those around the Chapel Hill community, which is hosting several of the graduations.
Ahead of the action, here is what families and others near UNC’s campus should know ahead of the celebrations for the Class of 2023.
Graduation Ceremony Schedule
Ceremonies for the three Orange County high schools and the five Chapel Hill-Carrboro City high schools will take place across Friday, June 9 and Saturday, June 10. The traditional high schools will all hold their ceremonies at the Dean E. Smith Center on Skipper Bowles Drive in Chapel Hill, with the districts alternating days.
Here is the full schedule of graduation ceremonies, times, and locations:
Friday, June 9
- Partnership Academy: 10 a.m. (at Cedar Ridge High School)
- Cedar Ridge High School: 4:30 p.m. (at the Dean E. Smith Center)
- Phoenix Academy High School and CHCCS Virtual Learning Academy: 6 p.m. (at East Chapel Hill High School)
- Orange High School: 7:30 p.m. (at the Dean E. Smith Center)
Saturday, June 10
- Carrboro High School: 9 a.m. (at the Dean E. Smith Center)
- East Chapel Hill High School: 12:30 p.m. (at the Dean E. Smith Center)
- Chapel Hill High School: 4 p.m. (at the Dean E. Smith Center)
Parking for the Smith Center
Attendees to each of the Friday and Saturday ceremonies on UNC campus will be directed to a handful of parking lots. The Skipper-Bowles and Williamson lots will be close by, but the Manning Lot and Craige Deck will also be open for families and are a short walk away from the Smith Center. The Rams Head lot will also be available to those visiting for the Orange County district’s high school graduations on Friday.
CHCCS Chief Communications Officer Andy Jenks says schools are suggesting both parents and students make plans for getting to the arena. With hundreds of families both arriving and leaving as the day goes on, he says being prepared for crowds may help prevent anyone from missing parts of the show.
“Plan ahead, be there early, and make sure that graduation day is not rushed,” says Jenks, “[so] that you have enough time to savor the moment and celebrate.”
“When in doubt,” he adds, “give yourself 10-15 additional minutes to be sure that you not only arrive on campus, but in case it becomes a little challenging or slow to find a parking spot and walk to the Smith Center.”
How To Watch
While there will be plenty of people around UNC’s campus for the ceremonies, both Orange County Schools and CHCCS understand not everyone will be able to make it.
Jenks says his district will be prepared to help.
“We’ll be live-streaming all of our ceremonies,” he says, “starting with Phoenix Academy Friday night through Chapel Hill High on Saturday evening.”
“And it’s not just a place where you can go and watch live,” Jenks adds. “We’ll be recording the ceremonies and posting the video there. Families and graduates who want to do so can relive those moments immediately after – or even years from now. We’re going to still keep that footage up online.”
Orange County will similarly live stream its ceremonies from the Dean E. Smith Center, while the Partnership Academy’s ceremony will be taped and posted at a later date.
“We want this to be an enjoyable experience,” Jenks says for those who will attend the ceremonies in person. “Cheer, show up, be enthusiastic for your graduates, all of their friends and classmates. If our rehearsals go correctly and if our information is properly communicated – which we know it will be – then our families get to focus on the graduates and enjoy that time for the momentous occasion it is.”
Smith Center Policies
For those visiting the Dean E. Smith Center for this weekend’s ceremonies, policies in place by the athletics venue will be enforced. That will not include UNC’s clear bag policy, but the security staff will be checking bags for the arena’s list of prohibited items. Full information about the Smith Center’s entrance requirements can be found on the Carolina Athletics website.
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