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NEW TAKE ON GRADUATION: Schools develop alternate plans for commencement ceremonies

School boards around the state are scrambling as to how to best host graduation ceremonies without hastening the spread of COVID-19.

The time, the place and the procedure all come into play with the desire to make High School Graduation 2020 as meaningful and memorable as possible for both the students and their families.

Models from around the state have been looked at by Pike County schools and are being considered, including stadium sites, gymnasiums, cafeterias and undisclosed locations.

Each has its pros and cons, so the Pike County schools have looked at each model in making their decisions as to which or what is best for their graduates and their families.

Whenever and however, Eric Mackey, the state school superintendent, recommended that anyone attending a ceremony exercise personal responsibility by following the guidelines that include wearing facial coverings and washing hands frequently.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has discouraged large group gatherings. Ryan Easterling, a spokesman for the agency, said maintaining proper social distancing will still be required.

With those recommendations, Charles Henderson, Goshen, Pike County and Pike Liberal Arts high schools have set the dates and made plans for their 2020 High School Graduation ceremonies.

Graduation for the Pike County High School Class of 2020 has been set for May 18 and 19 at the PCHS auditorium.

Assistant Principal Hannah Clifford said the graduation ceremonies will be conducted for groups of three to four seniors and up to eight family members for each.

“The seniors will wear their caps and gowns and be presented their diplomas and a yard sign honoring their graduation,” Clifford said. “Then, they will go back to their cars and the next group will come in.”

Clifford said the individual ceremonies will be video-taped along with the addresses by the PCHS Class of 2020 Valedictorian and Salutatorian and remarks by the members of the administration.

“Each member of the PCHS Class of 2020 will receive a copy of the video that will be an edited to include the entire PCHS 2020 graduation ceremony with each graduate walking across the stage to accept his or her diploma.”

Goshen High School principal, Ken Britford said, because of the restrictions of COVID-19, the GHS seniors will graduate on May 20 and 21 in groups of 10 with a limited number of family members present.

“Each senior may have no more than eight family member present at the ceremony and that number is firm,” Britford said. “Each student has received a letter detailing the graduation ceremony so they are aware of the plans and the restrictions.”

Britford said a video will be made of the students receiving their diplomas and also with those in attendance. 

The Goshen High School Class of 2020 valedictorian and salutatorian will give their speeches and they will also be recorded.

“The video of the GHS 2020 graduation will be recorded much like a television show is being made,” Britford said. “The video will be put together as if the Goshen High School graduation was one show.  The video will include all class members and will be a keepsake for our GHS 2020 graduates.”

Pike Liberal Arts School will send its Class of 2020 out with graduation at 7 p.m. on June 4 at the PLAS football stadium.

Eric Burkett, PLAS headmaster, said the most important consideration for the PLAS Class of 2020 was to graduate together.

“We have 36 graduates and that makes it possible to space them six feet apart,” Burkett said. “Each graduate will have eight tickets to be given to family members to attend the graduation ceremony. The family members will have a designated area in the stands with each family spaced six feet apart.”

The parents of the graduates will be seated on the field facing the graduates and distantly spaced.  Six tickets will remain for the other family members to sit in the stands.

The graduation program will include speeches by the valedictorian and salutatorian and the awarding of diplomas.
At the conclusion of the graduation ceremony, the guests will be ushered out, following all the guidelines for social distancing.

“We will follow and the guidelines that allow as many people as possible at the graduation ceremony,” Burkett said. “We are glad the governor loosened the guidelines that allow us to have the graduates together and with family members in attendance. Those two things were most important to our graduates. We were lucky it happened this way.”

Charles Henderson High School will hold their graduation ceremony on Thursday, May 21 beginning at 10 a.m. in Veterans Memorial Stadium on the campus of Troy University.

For people that can’t make the event, it will be live streamed by Troy Cable.

Each graduate will be given five guest tickets.

Troy City Schools Interim Superintendent Cynthia Thomas said the guest limit will be strictly enforced in an attempt to keep everybody safe. Charles Henderson High School will adhere to strict social distancing guidelines before, during, and after the graduation ceremony.