Arkansas school district prepares individual graduations to give seniors closure

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CROSS COUNTY, Ark. — COVID-19 has upended many year-end plans for graduating high school seniors, but one Arkansas school district is making sure students still have the send-off they deserve.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cross County School District had to get creative.

“This is the biggest event in their lifetime until this point, and so we need to really honor them and make the most of it for them,” district superintendent Nathan Morris said.

Morris said over the last few weeks, his team put their heads together to figure out how they could still pull off a ceremony for 38 graduating seniors. 

“We’re going to set our gym up just as if we’re going to have a traditional graduation ceremony,” Morris said.

Each student will have 15 to 20 minutes, and six of their family members can attend.

“And we’re actually going to walk them in just like they would for a normal graduation; the Pomp and Circumstance will be playing,” Morris said. “We’ll have the valedictorian, salutatorian speeches. We’ll do everything we would normally do for a normal graduation.”

They’re also sticking to state health guidelines

“We’re going to check everyone’s temperature when they come in, so if you have a fever when you come in, you won’t be allowed in,” Morris said.

Only a total of 10 people will be allowed in the gym, including the student, their family, Morris and the principal.

“Face masks and gloves will be worn, except when we’re filming the student on the walk, and we feel like there’s going to be proper spacing in our gym,” Morris said.

Morris said the word they kept hearing among students and parents was closure.

They hope the ceremony can provide perhaps a bit of that closure during this unprecedented time. 

“They didn’t ask for this, but they will remember it for the rest of their lives, and so we have to make the most of it for them,” Morris said.

The ceremonies with limited people involved will take place over several days in May with each ceremony recorded.

The hope is a more traditional graduation ceremony can take place in some form in July. If that can’t happen, the district hopes to edit all of the individual recorded ceremonies together for students as a keepsake.

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