Parking lot graduation, celebratory parade is Saturday

Posted May 19, 2020 at 1:40 pm

Despite being out of school since March 16, due to trying to keep the spread of the Coronavirus down, Clinton County Schools have found a way to hold a graduation ceremony to honor the Class of 2020.

The Clinton County News will release it’s annual Commencement salute special section with next week’s issue to salute the class of 2020, complete with class information and senior Cap and Gown portraits.

On Saturday, May 23, starting at 9 a.m., the first group of 25 graduates will enter the parking lot at Clinton County High School and begin the ceremony.

Dr. Tim Parson said each graduate will have an alloted amount of time to get out of their vehicle and walk across the stage to receive their diploma.

“You can already see the stage we have set up in the parking lot and we’ve basically got four different groups of seniors coming in,” Parson said. “The health department won’t let us get more than one kid out of the car at one time. Even though we have them in four groups, each kid will have their own time to exit the vehicle.”

Parson said each senior will be allowed to bring two vehicles in with them.

“Of course, they will be in one of those vehicles with the family in their household and the other vehicle will park directly behind them in the parking lot,” Parson said.

Once number 25 has walked across the stage, that group of vehicles will exit the parking lot and the next group will be permitted to enter the parking lot.

During the graduation ceremony, each student will follow the marked lines up to the stage and off the stage as well.

“They will be able to exit the vehicle, walk across the stage and pick up their diploma,” Parson said. “As they come off the stage, they will be able to pause for a picture. We will be able to be in the picture, but we will probably have to be behind them six feet, so we got an idea of how we can get a picture.”

During the ceremony, seniors will have to wear masks, but will be permitted to take off the mask during the photo session.

“They will have some things to go back to like mementos,” Parson said. “They will have a picture and they are going to video them walking across the stage and splice all that together to kind of look like an outdoor graduation. Of course it will show them with their masks on and in that way it will be kind of different.”

If the communities progress in dealing with the Coronavirus and students are allowed to attend school in the fall, Parson said they have scheduled a face-to-face graduation on Saturday, December 12.

“We went ahead and set a date because the kids said they would feel better if they knew they could have a face-to-face graduation,” Parson said.

Graduation will be an all day event according to Parson with a parade to take place at 5 p.m. that afternoon.

“The most progressive graduation plan that’s been communicated out there is one they are calling the Gulf Port model which is from Gulf Port, Mississippi,” Parson said. “They set the gym up just like a regular graduation and kids came in and they did it inside. They basically did it inside what we are doing outside.”

Parson believes the weather should be favorable for Saturday, but if there is rain he doesn’t think there would be an issue with pulling off graduation in the rain.

“The stage has a roof on it, so I guess worse case scenario, if we had to do it in the rain, they wouldn’t be in the rain but for just a moment,” Parson said. “From the car to the stage and from the stage back to the car would be about it. We could pull something off, I think.”

As times have definitely changed in how people do things, missing out on a lot of things only seniors get to experience, Parson believes this is a great alternative and a safe way to make the seniors feel like they have accomplished something.

“I think when it’s all said and done I think they will be happy with the way it turned out,” Parson said. “I think it will be more fulfilling than they think it will because it will be different. I think you get it in your head that there’s a certain way this has to go, but I’ve heard from others in the area who had their graduation early, that even though it wasn’t what they wanted in the beginning, in hindsight they realize they will be the class that nobody forgets.”

With the official last day of school being May 15, Parson said most of the parents and others wanted to have the graduation during Memorial Day weekend just for the fact that pushing it back two weeks after school was out wasn’t a good option.

“That date was talked about months ago long before we knew we had a Corona problem,” Parson said. “It really had more to do with when the last day of school was than anything else. There really wasn’t any other alternative. When we talked about the other alternatives and the people who didn’t like it being on Memorial Day weekend, nobody really liked any of the other alternatives either.”

As far as awards and scholarships are concerned, Parson said the radio will be announcing the awards for each senior as they walk across the stage and a list of awards and scholarships will be posted on the school’s web site.