By Liz Beavers

Tribune Managing Editor

KEYSER - Graduates of Keyser, Frankfort and the Mineral County Technical Center will have the opportunity to receive their diplomas next week - in a drive-through graduation ceremony.

Technically, it will be their second "graduation."

When the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made it look like social gatherings might not be possible through the spring and summer, both Keyser and Frankfort high schools invited students to participate in a virtual graduation ceremony in May. During the week of May 11, KHS seniors donned their caps and gowns and reported to the school, where one-by-one they were filmed walking across the stage and receiving a mock diploma from principal Lois Spencer.

The following week, FHS seniors did the same, walking across the stage to receive their mock diplomas from principal Joe Riley.

The videos were professionally edited and made available online for the graduates and their family members to view.

In June, however, Gov. Jim Justice announced as part of his "West Virginia Strong" reopening plan that in-person high school graduation ceremonies would be allowed as of June 22, with the guidance of the West Virginia Department of Education and each county board of education.

With the recent uptick in COVID-19 numbers in West Virginia and throughout the nation, however, Mineral County superintendent Troy Ravenscroft announced late Friday afternoon that the county’s three schools would hold "drive-thru" graduations.

"As much as we want to provide a somewhat traditional ceremony for our graduates, we have greater concerns for the overall health and well-being of our community," he said in a post on Facebook.

The Mineral County Technical Center has therefore scheduled its drive-thru graduation for 6-9 p.m. Friday, July 17, in the loop in front of the school

Frankfort High School will hold its ceremony at 10 a.m. to 1 p,m. Saturday, July 18, in front of the school, and Keyser High’s ceremony will be 6-9 p.m. that same Saturday in the loop in front of that school.

Students and/or their parents can drive through at those times to receive their diploma and certificates.

A professional photographer will be on site to capture the moment for the seniors.

"We didn’t take this decision lightly and we know it will not be popular," Ravenscroft said. "We ask for your understanding as we do our best to honor the Class of 2020, while thoughtfully considering our community."