One year after Hillsborough County in-person graduations were cancelled due to COVID-19, students at Plant High School walked across the stage.By Casey Albritton

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Tuesday kicked off Hillsborough County Public School’s graduation season!

One year after Hillsborough County in-person graduations were cancelled due to the pandemic, students at Plant High School were able to walk across the stage and get their diplomas Tuesday afternoon.

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At the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall, groups will be seated separately to allow for social distancing and masks will be required during each event. Despite these precautions in place, high school seniors say they are excited to walk across the stage.

Matthew Maney, Plant High School graduate, says “High school is finally over. I’m here with all of my friends.”

Brent Coton, Plant City High School graduate says “We’re definitely glad to have one really authentic event this year.”

It’s a day high school students look forward to for four years: graduation day.

“This is a good culmination of all our achievements and it’s a good way to reward us finally, to have a real graduation,” said Coton.

On Tuesday, Plant High School seniors walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, including senior class president, Matthew Maney, who says it’s been a tough year.

“Going from not being able to have anyone at sporting events or even getting used to wearing masks in the classroom this year. It’s been a real transition,” said Maney.

Plant City High School student Brent Coton is gearing up to graduate with his classmates on Wednesday, and says he never expected his senior year to go the way it did.

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“All of our events have been cancelled this year, from homecoming, pep rallies, to prom. School has just been school this year and that’s about it,” said Coton.

There’s one shared emotion among students despite the last year of the pandemic.

I’m just glad we are able to celebrate this moment in person,” said Maney.

“Not just me, but the whole senior class is going to be grateful for this opportunity,” said Coton.

In order to make sure graduations this year could happen safely, Hillsborough County Schools is implementing some rules: Everyone is required to wear masks, groups will be seated three to six feet apart, and each ceremony will be at least four hours apart to allow for deep cleaning in between. Students are also only allowed to invited up to four family members to limit capacity.

No matter what the circumstances are, Coton and Maney say graduation day will be a day they will never forget.

“Being there, getting our diploma in front of all our family and friends, having a real ceremony,” said Coton.

“I’m just glad we finally made it to this point,” said Maney.

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Hillsborough County Schools says if you feel sick or you’ve been in contact with someone who has had COVID-19 recently, you should not attend the graduation ceremonies.