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ECHS to hold ‘face-to-face’ graduation May 21

UPDATE: Escambia County High School Principal Amy Cabaniss said graduation will be held in the football stadium with social-distancing guidelines in place.

Cabaniss said the board of education made the decision at today’s board meeting.

“We will do everything we can to honor the social distancing,” Cabaniss said.

Cabaniss said all the details are being worked out for graduation, and more information will be released tomorrow, Fri., May 15.

Superintendent John Knott released a statement on the school system’s Facebook page, detailing the social-distancing guidelines for each high school’s graduation.

“Last Friday, Gov. (Kay) Ivey issued an amended order that provides flexibility for school districts to hold a more traditional type of graduation ceremony to recognize the class of 2020,” Knott said. “However, the ceremonies must remain in compliance with both social distancing and safety parameters.”

Knott said the board met today to review and reevaluate its commencement plans.

“Once again, we consulted with the department of health and the Alabama State Department of Education,” he said. “Our main priority is to celebrate our students in a safe and responsible way.”

Knott said that each of the three high schools’ graduation ceremonies will be held in their respective football stadiums.

“We are looking forward to celebrating the class of 2020 by providing our seniors with this opportunity to come together and share this momentous occasion,” he said.

School administrators are working to develop a detailed agenda and instructions for the ceremony at their respective schools. Each school will be sharing this information with their seniors and the community, he said.

Knott said the following guidelines will be in place:
1. Social distancing guidelines requiring six feet between members of different households will be enforced prior to, during, and after the ceremony. For this reason, each senior will be allowed to invite 4 guests to the ceremony. All children, including infants, will be required to have a ticket.
2. Strongly recommend that all guests wear a face mask.
3. Ensure strict compliance with all Department of Public Health and CDC guidelines.
4. We will not be able to allow you to take pictures in the parking lot or socialize outside prior to the ceremony.
5. Once you are parked, you will be directed from your vehicle into the stadium. In an effort to adhere to local and state guidelines, attendees will not be allowed to remain in their vehicles, or congregate along the fence line.
6. Once family members enter the stadium, they will be directed to a designated seat. Seats will be arranged in groups of four, and you will be shown where your seat is located. No more than four people will be able to sit in each designated area. Attendees will have to remain in their designated seat for the duration of the event.
7. You may take pictures from your seat, but will not be allowed to leave your seat to take pictures.
8. At the conclusion of the ceremony, senior graduates will march from the stadium to the assigned area. At that point, they will collect their essential belongings and documents, and then return to their vehicle for immediate departure.
9. Spectators will be dismissed by sections, in an orderly fashion, and then return to their vehicle, and disembark from that point. We will not be allowed to have people on the field after the ceremony.

We are aware that this is not the “normal” way to conduct graduation, and we wish that we did not have to apply all of these guidelines. However, we are excited about celebrating and honoring our graduates. Thank you for showing continued patience and flexibility, and we look forward to seeing you at graduation.

Escambia County High School is holding a face-to-face graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 next Thurs., May 21, according to the school’s Facebook page.

The graduation format, which was selected by the majority of the senior class, will be face to face with a limit of four guests per graduate. The ceremony will be held from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. with each graduate receiving an appointment time.

Principal Amy Cabaniss said given the statewide orders by Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey to close public schools and activities with the exception of graduation because of COVID-19, the school polled the seniors. The order was executed in March, and virtual school for the seniors began April 6.

“As we moved through this, the decision was left up to each school district or board of education,” Cabaniss said. “The big thing everybody was saying is ‘Why don’t we wait?’

“The problem with that is that if you did, it’d be July before that’s (graduation) possible,” she said.

Cabaniss said the poll choices included a full on web-based graduation with seniors in cap and gown at home; a drive-thru style graduation; and a face-to-face graduation, where each senior receives a diploma one at a time.

“That’s (face-to-face graduation) the hardest of the three choices, but we’re not looking for easy, we’re looking for right for the seniors,” she said. “We (all three high school principals and Superintendent John Knott) had a Google meet Thursday to finalize what our guidelines were going to be at each school.”

Cabaniss said seniors and their loved ones enter the school parking lot. Each car will be identified with the graduate’s name and ceremony tickets.

There will be two stations set up inside the school, Cabaniss said.
“Each graduate will have a different time slot,” she said. “They will be graduating five minutes a part. We’ll have two staging areas in addition to the auditorium. Our resource officer will be on hand, and we’ll block the parking lot off with the exception of the graduates and their parents and family.

“They’ll be allowed to pull in and park, and then come in on one side of the building,” she said, adding that the library area will be the first staging area. “The second area will be the main lobby where thee trophies are for them to take photos. Then, when it’s their turn, they’ll enter the auditorium.”

Cabaniss said pomp and circumstance will be playing all day, and each graduate will go down the ramps on either side and won’t be allowed to sit down.

“Leslie Sellers will take pictures and send them to them,” she said.

As an added feature, former Principal Dennis Fuqua is going hand out the diplomas, Cabaniss said.

Once the graduate receives his/her diploma, each will exit along the back door of the auditorium, Cabaniss said.

Additionally, Flomaton High School Television Production Teacher Jerry Aaron will be videotaping each graduation, and uploading them on YouTube at 7 p.m., when graduation usually begins.