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Hawkins graduation ceremonies set for May 21 with special guidelines

Jeff Bobo • May 6, 2020 at 5:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The COVID-19 crisis messed up a lot of things about the Class of 2020’s final two months of their K-12 education, but Hawkins County school officials don’t want it to mess up their final act as a high school student.

On Tuesday, Director of Schools Matt Hixson announced a social distancing plan for graduation ceremonies to take place in the gymnasiums at Cherokee High School, Volunteer High School and Clinch School on May 21.

Members of Hawkins County’s Class of 2020 will still walk the stage to pick up their diploma, but only a limited number of people will be allowed in the gym at the same time. Those waiting their turn to get in will stay in their vehicle in the gym parking lot.

“Honoring and celebrating the Class of 2020 has been a priority for each of our high schools,” Hixson stated in a press release Tuesday. “Every senior will have the opportunity to walk the stage and receive their diploma. To remain in compliance with current state and CDC guidelines, our graduation ceremonies will be altered.”

Students will receive specific instructions on May 14 when dropping off final materials and picking up senior packets. Home delivery is available upon request.

Small groups of students with their guests

Each student will be allowed to bring four guests. Student and guests must arrive in a single vehicle, and students will be assigned a time to arrive on campus.

Groups of students and guests will be staged in the parking lot inside their vehicles and will proceed to the building at their assigned time and enter the gymnasium.

Students and their guests will then line up along the home side of the gymnasium on spots marked with adequate distance between to maintain social distancing. Students and guests will proceed toward the stage one at a time while maintaining social distancing between groups

Guests will break off from students

As the student approaches the stage, their guests will break off from students and stand at a marked location in front of center stage directly prior to their student walking onto the stage.

The student will hand the speaker at the microphone a card with their name, and that student will then be announced and will proceed across the stage to receive a diploma cover and stop for a photo with the director of schools and/or their principal.

Exiting the ceremony

The student will exit the stage and stop for an additional photo opportunity, after which guests will exit the building. The student will proceed down the 700 hallway and enter a classroom where they will pick up final materials.

Student and guests will then enter their vehicle. Groups will exit campus once all students in the group have walked the stage and returned to their vehicles.

Further Statement by Matt Hixson

We focused on two priorities: safety and celebration.

Safety: we are still under large group restrictions of no more than 10 people at a time in one location. If our event is deemed “essential” all attendees would need to be at least six feet apart, this something we cannot accommodate or enforce. Even if our county/region progresses to phase two or three of the economic reopening, each requiring progress on a number of fronts over a period of at least four weeks, we would still be under restrictions for, at most, no more than 100 people in any one event (phase three).

Celebration: the seniors spoken to by school admin largely wanted a celebration done sooner rather than later and something that involved all seniors. Some of our seniors have been with Hawkins for 13 years! We want as many there as possible. The longer we wait to celebrate our seniors, the more chance we have of not having all seniors in attendance. Each will have access to the edited video at the end, which will capture all graduates. The ceremony will also be streamed for those who cannot attend.

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