NORFOLK, Va.— High school seniors across Hampton Roads are preparing to walk across the state to get their diplomas.
Local law enforcement leaders say there’s a heightened security awareness and residents are relieved that extra safety measures are in place. It comes after a mass shooting at a high school graduation ceremony in Richmond earlier this week.
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Old Dominion University is preparing to host 18 high school graduations in seven days starting this Saturday at the Chartway Arena. Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Suffolk schools all use the arena for their ceremonies.
ODU’s Police Chief Garret Shelton explained some of the safety measures that are in place for the ceremonies.
ODU’s Police Chief Garret Shelton
“Everyone entering the arena would go through metal detection and we have a footprint of officers on the inside of the arena, and the outside of the arena,” said Chief Shelton.
Chartway Arena at ODU
ODU police will be working with Norfolk police, along with police agencies from each respective city.
“It is our plan that at the end of the day, everyone will have a wonderful celebratory time, have good memories, and be able to leave the venue healthy and safe,” said Chief Shelton.
ODU Police Chief Shelton
With safety at the forefront, Chief Shelton would not share details with News 3 about the specifics.
“Why would we open the playbook to allow for everything to be seen?” said Shelton.
The strategic plan has been in the works long before graduation to keep students safe but some families are still keeping a watchful eye after what happened in Richmond.
“You have to pay attention of what’s going on around you,” said David Selby, who’s relieved to hear about extra safety measures.
Selby’s nephew is graduating from Virginia Beach City Public Schools next week. The school district sent a letter to parents about safety requirements for graduation, saying all guests will be subject to metal detector inspection at the convention center.
The letter sent to families is below:
Dear VBCPS families,
Our hearts are heavy and our thoughts are with the families, students, and staff in the Richmond community as they mourn yesterday’s tragedy. At a time that should be filled with joy and celebrating tremendous achievement, we are grieving another senseless loss of lives.
As we approach VBCPS graduation ceremonies next week, we’d like to remind you of the measures we take in consultation with both convention center administration and public safety officials in order to ensure safe and smooth commencements for our students and their families:
We want you to know that the safety of our students, staff and families is our number one priority as we celebrate this important milestone together. Our Office of Security and Emergency Management partners with the Virginia Beach Police Department and has safety plans in place.
Additional information about graduation safety can be found at We thank you for your support and partnership in keeping everyone’s safety top of mind.
“I appreciate them stepping up because it’s really bad out here now, it’s really bad out here,” said Selby.
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Portsmouth school officials also tell News 3 they have requested additional officers to be at the ceremonies, and Chief Shelton encourages families to speak up if they hear of any potential threats to keep students and families safe.