Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2019-20 school year is pretty much over for public school students across the state, per Governor Bill Lee’s official recommendation last week.
But for senior students and their family members, there is still one important piece of unfinished business – namely graduation.
And while the question of when is still up in the air for many schools, administrators at all five of Carroll County’s special school districts say they are planning on holding graduation ceremonies at some point.
They all also say that they plan to bestow the usual valedictorian, salutatorian, top ten, and other graduation honors, though the rules on how those spots are determined have changed a bit.
As a part of emergency measures taken by the Tennessee Board of Education during its April 9 meeting, schools can determine students’ final grades and class rankings based on each student’s standing as of March 20, the date Gov. Lee originally mandated for all schools in the state to close. All schools in Carroll County closed on March 19.
The requirement that end-of-course testing be factored into students’ final grades has also been waived for the current school year.
“We are giving all consideration to graduation for our seniors and their families,” said Huntingdon Director of Schools Pat Dillahunty. “But we don’t have a date yet.”
According to Dillahunty, they are waiting to see what directives the governor gives in the near future regarding public gatherings and social distancing before setting a definite date for commencement and laying out ground rules for how that ceremony will be conducted and how many can attend.
She also said that a special meeting of the Huntingdon Board of Education may be called to discuss the matter before the regular May 20 meeting.
Dillahunty pointed out that teachers and administrators are still working on student grades, so class rankings have not yet been determined.
“We’re planning, but it’s just too soon to say,” she said. “I hope we can do it like we always do.”
The McKenzie Special School District, on the other hand, has set a date for graduation.
According to Director of Schools Lynn Watkins, commencement ceremonies will be held on Sunday, May 17 at 3 p.m. in the McKenzie High School gymnasium.
Attendance, however, will be restricted with each graduating senior receiving six tickets to give out to family and friends.
Like Huntingdon, West Carroll school officials are waiting on a cue from state authorities before setting a definite graduation date.
“Right now, we’re just paying close attention to state and CDC guidelines,” said Director of Schools Dexter Williams. “But we are going to have one.”
Williams added that they also plan to have a senior prom, though a date for that hasn’t been set either.
“There’s just so much unknown right now,” said Williams.
According to Hollow Rock-Bruceton Director of Schools David Duncan, the May 8 date originally set for graduation has been postponed, and a rescheduled date has not yet been set.
Duncan said he and other school administrators will re-evaluate the situation in early May.
“We’re still working on it,” said Duncan. “We’ll make a decision as soon as we know what we can and can’t do.”
Duncan added that they are looking into streaming the ceremony live on Facebook.
Regarding class rankings, Duncan pointed out that all students, including graduating seniors, are being given the opportunity to improve their grades as they stood on March 18 in the form of schoolwork packets and online work provided by their teachers.
Parents can pick up packets for their children at the high school and elementary school offices from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, and all extra schoolwork must either be turned in at these offices or submitted online by May 8 in order to be counted toward students’ grades.
Parents with questions regarding this extra schoolwork can call the CHS office at 418-4189 or the CES office at 418-4168.
Commencement exercises at Clarksburg High School have been tentatively set for Friday, May 8, according to South Carroll Director of Schools Dr. Tony Tucker.
“The big word is ‘tentative,’ depending on how things stand on May 1,” said Tucker. “We may have to push it back a week or two.”
Tucker added that they are leaning toward limited attendance, with graduating seniors only being able to invite five or six people apiece, so that those in attendance can sit at some distance apart.
“We’re small enough that we can do that,” he said.