The students wanted it all for graduation, and as best they could, principals Meocha Williams of Scott County, Joy Lusby of Great Crossing high schools and Laura Rice of Phoenix Horizon did just that, said Superintendent Dr. Kevin Hub.
Williams made the presentation during a special meeting video conference before the Scott County Board of Education unanimously approved a plan for a virtual graduation ceremony preceded by a parade. The caveat is an in-person graduation ceremony sometime in July, if health and government officials relax COVID-19 restrictions against mass gatherings.
The three principals have been meeting with various members of the senior class regarding graduation and they arrived at three options, Williams said. The first was a traditional face-to-face ceremony, the second was a parade and the third was a virtual ceremony. Currently, the face-to-face ceremony is not an option because of government restrictions against gatherings of 10 or more, so the class elected to go with a virtual ceremony, Williams said.
Herff Jones, a company that specializes in graduation supplies, has a virtual platform available that would meet all the needs, she said.
According to Herff Jones website, a virtual graduation would:
— Host an online ceremony with or without a graduate procession.
— Virtually gather students and their families to celebrate commencement.
— Play audio of each student’s names, pronounced correctly, as their personalized slide is displayed.
— Collect personalized content for ongoing communications.
— Gift each new graduate their individual #MoveTheTassel moment with a personalized, video file.
— Students can connect with other graduates on social media by posting their videos and using #MoveTheTassel or #Gradawaytion.
Herff Jones said there is a minimum 34-day wait on the ceremony, now, Williams said. At this point it is almost impossible to make the original graduation date of May 30, but a good target date might be the first weekend of June, Hub said. Once the date is set, the schools will make sure everyone knows, he said.
“We have worked hard on this proposal and for weeks we have been meeting with students getting their input,” Williams said. “This proposal meets all the requirements including formality, safety and we believe achieves the caliber of event we want.”
Prior to each of the three virtual ceremonies a Homecoming-style parade would be held along the bypass preceding the virtual ceremony which would be treated like a red carpet move-style event, where seniors and their families can watch from home on YouTube, she said.
“I envision the parade would be something like a Homecoming parade, where students would decorate their cars,” Hub said. “I think the students will be pretty creative.”
The ceremonies and parades would be on separate days so that each school could have its own celebration. This will be Great Crossing High School’s inaugural graduation.
While a face-to-face ceremony is impossible at the moment, no one wanted to relinquish the opportunity for such an event in the future, Williams said.
However, the students emphasized that if a face-to-face ceremony became a possibility, it must be held prior to the beginning of August, Williams said. It would be likely many of the students would not be available after July because many would be leaving for college, the military or starting new jobs, she said.
“We all would rather have a traditional graduation,” said board chairman Kevin Kidwell.
Some parents who attended the video conference expressed concern the school board was making a decision too quickly, but Hub disagreed.
“I don’t think the board is acting too quickly,” the superintendent said. “The principals have been meeting with students for weeks, so we aren’t acting hastily. My thinking is if there is a 34-day wait now for these virtual ceremonies, if we wait too long there is no telling what the wait will be.”
Diplomas will be mailed following the virtual ceremonies, because students will need them as they move onto college or the next stage of their life, Hub said. Awards and achievements will be communicated through the News-Graphic and other means.
“I have a bunch of very good high school principals,” Hub said. “They were very thoughtful and empathized with what the senior class and their families are going through. They worked very hard on this. I am very pleased.”
Mike Scogin can be reached at email@example.com.