Graduation will take place next week for Russell County High School seniors. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there cannot be a traditional graduation ceremony. The Kentucky Department of Education released guidelines for schools at the end of April to give them time to decide how to proceed. The procedures for graduation were released by the school on Thursday.
“We worked with the Kentucky Department of Public Health and the governor’s office to ensure the options we are sharing with districts and questions we are asking them to consider keep students, families and communities safe,” said KDE Interim Commissioner Kevin C. Brown. “We know this is a difficult time for many of our students, especially our seniors, and their families. This guidance will give district and school leaders things to consider while making plans on how to best recognize their students and finish up the school year.”
Kentucky is a local-control state, so many of the final decisions on how to move forward with graduation were left to the local boards of education and SBDM councils in consultation with local health departments.
In Russell County, the decision was made to proceed with a three-day graduation event that will allow seniors to walk the stage in cap and gown to receive their diploma and have their photo taken while still maintaining safety precautions. The school says there will be social distancing guidelines enforced during the event.
The Russell County High School graduation will be held May 20, 21, and 22 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. each day. To participate in the graduation, students must sign up for an appointment in advance of the event. To create an appointment, go online to https://doodle.com/poll/xad9insiqum5ises and fill out the necessary information with the student’s full name as they want it read at the graduation ceremony. Seniors may invite up to four people, including children, to accompany them during the ceremony. Appointments are scheduled five minutes apart to allow each student time to walk the stage and have the photo taken. Appointments need to be scheduled by Monday, May 18 at noon.
Seniors may pick up cap, gown, cords, collars, stoles and any other item purchased on May 14 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Seniors with the last name A-L will pick up between the hours of 10:00-11:30 a.m. while those with last names beginning M-Z will pick up between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
On the day of graduation, seniors should arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled appointment time. Cars must enter through the middle school entrance at the guard shack. The school asks that graduates minimize the number of cars per family since only the student and four guests are permitted. Once on campus, a staff member will direct each family where to park and where to enter.
The graduate and all guests will need to wear masks. The graduate may remove the mask while walking across the stage to receive the diploma and have a photo taken.
Graduates should come dressed in their cap and gown and all accessories. A member of the staff will meet the graduate and guests at the door and direct them to a classroom to await their appointment. When that time arrives, a staff member will escort the graduate and guests to the gymnasium.
The graduate will walk across the stage, be presented his or her diploma, pause for a photo on stage, and then exit the gymnasium.
Each graduate will be filmed walking across the stage and the school will put together a final graduation production that mimics a traditional graduation ceremony. This video will be shared with all graduates.
The school asks that everyone be aware that restrooms and other facilities in the building will not be open during this time. Additionally, if more than the graduate and four guests arrive, those extra guests will be required to remain in vehicles.
After the graduation, the graduate and guests will exit the building immediately following his or her appointment. Families must leave the parking lot promptly because other graduates will be arriving for their appointments. There should be no loitering or socializing in the parking lot after leaving the gymnasium. School resource officers will be directing exiting traffic.
School officials wished to stress that it is critical that each graduate who plans to participate in the ceremony fills out the appointment link (https://doodle.com/poll/xad9insiqum5ises) and arrives 15 minutes prior to that scheduled appointment. With such a short turnaround time for each graduate and strict guidelines, school officials may not be able to accommodate late arrivals.