OSPREY — Venice, Pine View School and North Port High School have all canceled its 2020 graduation ceremonies and senior celebrations.

North Port and Venice planned to hold their ceremonies July 16 at CoolToday Park, with North Port at 8 a.m., and Venice planned for 8 p.m.

Venice High School Principal Eric Jackson sent a email to families Friday afternoon stating their graduation would also be canceled as a result of the spike in COVID-19 cases in the state.

Venice High School is working out details to allow families to take photos in cap and gown on July 16.

“It is with great sadness & difficulty that I have to announce that our graduation ceremony has been cancelled, as well as our senior celebration we had planned for our seniors,” Pine View Principal Stephen Covert said in an email to students and parents. “The digital graduation ceremony we have prepared will now serve as our only graduation ceremony, and will be released to the public on July 19th.”

The school is working to have families and graduating seniors on campus for cap-and-gown photos “under strict guidelines,” it said.

Covert said the decision to cancel “was not made lightly.”

“All of our high schools have been continually working with the school district and the local Department of Health, as well as our senior class officers and senior class sponsors to try and develop a way to safely hold these celebrations,” he wrote. “As we are all aware, Florida has recently had a rapid increase in COVID-19 positive cases and guidelines have changed.”

He wrote the decision came after “lengthy and heartbreaking discussions” between the school, district and Department of Health.

The organizations “felt it would not be safe for our seniors and staff members to participate in the graduation ceremony or celebration for seniors as planned,” the email says.

“We are working with our senior class officers and class sponsors to come up with a meaningful way to celebrate this amazing class, and how those funds that would have been spent on graduation should be spent in keeping with our school’s philosophy that gifts are for sharing,” Covert wrote.

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