Scott County Schools have moved ahead with plans for a face-to-face ceremony for 2020 graduates to be held in late July.

The face-to-face ceremony was part of the original graduation plans presented by the principals of Great Crossing and Scott County high schools and Phoenix Horizon Community and approved by the school board. But because of state restrictions on mass gatherings due to COVID-19, plans to proceed with a parade and virtual graduation ceremony was approved closer to the original graduation date.

On Tuesday, the face-to-face graduation ceremony timetable for all three schools was confirmed to be the last weekend of July. Currently, the state has just increased its restrictions on the number of people who can gather at a single event from 10 to 20. School officials are hoping the state will be increasing the number allowed at mass gatherings further by the end of July.

“The graduation plan for Scott County Schools is multi-faceted with three different opportunities to celebrate the Class of 2020,” states a press release from the school system. “Phoenix Horizon Community, Great Crossing High School, and Scott County High School will each participate in a community graduate parade and will premiere their individual virtual graduation programs beginning June 11, 2020 with PHC followed by GCHS on June 12 and SCHS on June 13. Each parade will begin at 6 p.m. followed by the virtual program debut on YouTube each night at 8 p.m. The virtual programs will be professionally developed by an organization that has years of experience with similar formats. The parade and virtual programs allow schools to recognize graduates and families to celebrate this accomplishment soon after the end of the school year.”

Social media heated up this weekend as some parents were frustrated that other schools were able to hold “in-person” ceremonies, which led to the school system formalizing the original intent with a specific date.

“I think it is a good idea,” said Shanita LaShae LeDet about the confirmation of an actual in-person graduation ceremony. “It’s really important for the graduates to see their friends before everyone goes off. I think it is a good plan.

“To see the look on my daughter and her boyfriend’s face when they heard (a face-to-face ceremony date was set) was worth it. I think the schools have gone above and beyond.”

In a letter to the editor, Charity Barnes disagreed with waiting until July for the in-person ceremony.

“Quite honestly, these graduates are ready for some closure to this year,” Barnes wrote. “They do not want to wait two months for the possibility to do this in person with everyone. To tell them that in-person is not possible right now, when they see it all around, is disrespectful of their intelligence.”

Between the three schools, there are roughly 531 graduates, which makes an in-person ceremony, even spacing out the graduates, almost impossible to pull off safely under current state and public health guidelines, said Meocha Williams, SCHS principal, during her presentation to the school board at its April 28 meeting. 

The three principals met with multiple students in developing the plans in place, Williams said. The students clearly want a face-to-face graduation ceremony, but it has to be before August because many will be going off to college, the military or starting their career, she said. Tuesday’s press release states details of the in-person program will be announced after July 4, “so that we can take into consideration the latest recommendations available from government and health officials regarding crowd size.”

“At this time, we anticipate each program being held on the football field at Birds Nest Stadium, which was the plan for commencement exercises prior to COVID-19,” states the press release.” We are still hopeful that this could be a traditional graduation but there are questions that no one can answer at this time.  

“It could mean a crowd of 50 or less. Waiting provides the best opportunity for students to get their wish and have a face-to-face program in some capacity prior to the leaving for college or reporting for military service.”

Dr. Kevin Hub, superintendent of Scott County Schools said the late July date was necessary. “There are only four weekends in July,” he said. “One is the Fourth of July holiday and two are Toyota’s traditional shutdown weekends. That is why we had to go with the last weekend in July.”

This will be the first graduation ceremony for Great Crossing High School, which opened in August.

Each school has provided yard signs to signify graduates. Some parents have established a Facebook page to “Adopt A Graduate” to honor the graduating seniors. On May 30, the News-Graphic will publish a special edition for all graduates. The schools are also working on a commemorative bag with keepsakes from community partners to honor the graduates. The bags will be available for pick up the week of June 15 when graduates will receive their diplomas.

 

Mike Scogin can be reached at mscogin@news-graphic.com. 

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