The show must go on, and while graduation ceremonies may not fall in that category, the Walton County School District has scheduled summer dates for graduation for all three high schools.
On Tuesday, meeting with the Walton County Board of Education in its monthly work session, Superintendent Nathan Franklin was confident the system could go forward.
“If we had to make the call today, we feel good about the June dates,” Franklin said.
Two days later, the school system announced graduations would go forward this month, with certain precautions put in place to address the ongoing pandemic concerns.
The three district high schools will begin holding ceremonies June 18 and continue daily through June 20.
Monroe Area High School will go first, holding its ceremony at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 18. Loganville High School will hold its event the next night at 8 p.m., with Walnut Grove High School finishing with a 9 a.m. ceremony Saturday.
If inclement weather interrupts these plans, each ceremony will be forced to wait or move to another day, as current health guidelines prevent moving the event indoors.
Monroe Area would move to 9 a.m. Friday, while rain Friday night would move Loganville to 8 p.m Saturday. Walnut Grove High School has set no alternative date but plans to wait for a break in the weather if rain hits that Saturday morning, in order to finish the ceremony on June 20.
“We have met with all the principals and the leadership teams,” Franklin said. “The biggest orders expire June 12, so we can move forward that next week.”
A number of health guidelines will still need to be observed. The district is encouraging people who are elderly, have compromised immune systems or preexisting conditions or are otherwise exceptionally susceptible to COVID-19 to stay home.
“We will have a good, quality livestream for all three ceremonies,” Franklin said, allowing those people to still view the event as it happens.
For the rest, each graduate will be given four tickets for guests, due to social distancing guidelines. Available seats in the stadium will be marked and guests asked not to sit closer to other family units than those spots set aside for the purpose.
“The students are the easy part,” Franklin said of social distancing, given the schools can spread the graduating class across the entire football field at each school. “We have ideas there.”
Other precautions include a recommendation for each guest to wear a cloth face covering and the use of hand sanitizer, which will be available at hand sanitizing stations at each entrance.
Guests will also not be allowed on the football field, but asked to meet their graduate in the parking lot after the ceremony, following a formal recessional march.
Franklin said attendance was voluntary if some students felt uncomfortable attending during the pandemic.
“All students’ names will be called whether they’re there or not, so if you’re watching the livestream you can still hear your name announced,” Franklin said.
School officials know the additional requirements will put a burden on some families and make things more complicated, but system information officer Callen Moore said it was a great opportunity for everyone to experience a somewhat traditional graduation ceremony.
“I think everyone will be pleased,” Moore said. “No one around us had an in-person graduation.”