In brief: Happy (socially distanced) graduation, Memorial Day, and more

Joslyn Grimes (center) poses for a picture with her family after graduating at Albemarle High School on Saturday, May 23, 2020. Students filtered into the parking lot in five-minute intervals to experience the modified ceremony due to social distancing guidelines. PC: Zack Wajsgras Joslyn Grimes (center) poses for a picture with her family after graduating at Albemarle High School on Saturday, May 23, 2020. Students filtered into the parking lot in five-minute intervals to experience the modified ceremony due to social distancing guidelines. PC: Zack Wajsgras

Rad grads

Charlottesville’s 2020 high school graduates imagined they’d be walking across a grand stage right about now, with “Pomp and Circumstance” blaring as an auditorium applauded. That’s gone, of course, but the virus hasn’t stopped our schools from showing love for their seniors. Districts around town have held variations on the traditional graduation ceremony, providing graduates with a chance to do more than just fling their caps toward the family’s living room ceiling.

Although school was originally scheduled to run through June 5, county schools decided to end “remote learning” on May 22, and held graduation events this week. At Albemarle High, students could make an appointment to walk across a tented, outdoor stage and receive a diploma while families and photographers looked on.

In the city, where lessons are (at least theoretically) continuing for the next two weeks, Charlottesville High put on a “victory lap” event—students donned their caps and gowns and drove around the school with their families, while teachers and staff stood by the roadside hollering congratulations and holding signs. The lap concluded at the front of the school, where graduates walked across the “stage” and received their diplomas. On the originally scheduled graduation day, the school will stream a congratulatory video, featuring footage from the victory laps.

In the past, most of the area’s public high schools have held their ceremonies at the John Paul Jones Arena. This year’s celebrations are far less grand, but they show the creativity, resilience, and sense of humor required in this moment—and they’re certainly as memorable as a valedictory address.

______________________

Quote of the Week

“I’ll tell you what—I think it’s been a spectacular success.”

Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer on Memorial Day weekend. According to the city’s police, there were no major social distancing
violations on the area’s jam-packed beaches.

______________________ 

In brief

Pay up

The neo-Nazis who helped organize Unite the Right have, unsurprisingly, behaved poorly throughout the ensuing court case against them. On Monday, three defendants in Sines v. Kessler were ordered to pay $41,300 as a penalty for violating orders to turn over evidence related to the case, reports Integrity First for America, the organization backing the suit. Earlier this year, defendant Elliot Kline was charged with contempt of court and faced jail time as a result. The case is ongoing.

In the hole

After furloughing more than 600 employees with little notice, UVA Health System executives provided staff with more information on the institution’s deficit of $85 million per month. In a virtual meeting between School of Medicine faculty and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. Craig Kent earlier this month, Kent explained that the health system had a budget margin for this past year “of essentially zero” and had low reserves compared to other institutions, reported The Daily Progress. Naming several other money troubles, Kent admitted the institution hasn’t “run very efficiently over the years,” and promised it would make major financial changes.

Goodbye generals?

Years of debate (and violence) over the city’s infamous Confederate statues could soon come to an end. Four days after Governor Ralph Northam signed bills allowing localities to remove or alter Confederate monuments last month, Charlottesville City Manager Tarron Richardson told City Council via email that he would like to hold 2-2-1 meetings to discuss the removal of the Lee and Jackson statues, reported The Daily Progress. Richardson asked for the meetings, which would not have to be open to the public, to be held after council approves the city’s fiscal 2021 budget, which is expected to happen next month.

Hydroxy hoax

In a Sunday interview with “Full Measure,” President Trump admitted he was no longer taking daily doses of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug he claimed could prevent or treat coronavirus, despite mounting scientific evidence to the contrary. Just last week, he dismissed the findings of a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and UVA, which concluded that the drug had a higher overall mortality rate for coronavirus patients in Veterans Administration hospitals, calling it “a Trump enemy statement.” Trump has yet to apologize for those remarks, still claiming in the interview that “hydroxy” has had “tremendous, rave reviews.”

Respectful distance

With social-distancing regulations in place, traditional ceremonies were off limits this Memorial Day, but some locals still found ways to commemorate the holiday. An enormous American flag floated over the 250 Bypass, thanks to the fire department, and residents showed up at the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial to pay their respects throughout the day, including a trumpet player who joined in a nationally coordinated playing of “Taps.”

Frozen out

Laid off workers looking for a new position amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic won’t have an easy time of it, as several of the city’s major employers—including the City of Charlottesville, the University of Virginia, and Albemarle County Public Schools— have announced hiring freezes. Among the positions on hold in city government are the heads of the departments of Parks & Recreation and Public Works (both currently being run by interim directors), along with traffic supervisor, centralized safety coordinator, and others.

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