Resolutions met to State Line Drive-In graduation debates

Published 4:45 pm Monday, May 18, 2020

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Graduation, usually a time of celebration, has been instead a time of uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was previously announced on May 8 that Carter County Schools would send off their seniors at the State Line Drive-In. This, added with the limit of one car per graduate, was met with debate.
Following the announcement, a petition was started by Jimmy Pierce, father to a Happy Valley High School senior, in hopes of prompting Kevin Ward, director of schools, to have schools poll students on what they would want. The petition information details that school systems across the region took into consideration what students wanted, while Carter County Schools did not.
A resolution has now been met.
Ward and Pierce met on Thursday of last week to discuss what could be done.
Pierce described that they spoke for a little over an hour. During this time, it was presented as to why the drive-in was chosen and how the program would be run. Pierce came with two proposals, one that would allow graduations to happen at the high schools with safety protocols in place, and the second being that a traditional graduation would take place at some point in the future. The second was agreed upon.
“We all understand that with this COVID-19 mess, no one knows when it’s going to end, or things will go back to normal for school, so the solution that we came to during the meeting was that the seniors would get the opportunity to have a traditional graduation when the time is right,” Pierce said.
In the meeting, it was explained that the reason certain areas could not be used was due to social distancing guidelines in terms of isolating people, which is why the drive-in worked. Ward said the conversation felt successful.
“It was a very constructive conversation,” he said.
The result has been that in the future, this will be an open-ended date. The class of 2020 will have their chance to graduate traditionally. Ward described one idea could be next year, possibly the morning or night before or after the class of 2021 graduates, that this class will have their ceremony. This works well as opposed to a specific date since COVID-19 remains unpredictable.
While Ward will be retiring, the new superintendent knows of these plans and also agrees.
The drive-in graduation is going on as planned, with two cars now being allowed at the venues. The entire ceremony will also be shown on the large screen at the drive-in. Students will be contacted by schools to find out who will be attending and who will have a second vehicle. There will be a parade/procession for the cars graduates are riding in leading up to the drive-in. Ceremonies will now be taking place at 8:45 p.m. on the following dates:
Unaka High School – May 26
Hampton High School – May 28
Cloudland High School – June 2
Happy Valley High School – June 4
Pierce said he did a survey with some of the seniors, who weren’t entirely on board prior to the resolution. Many did not understand why they couldn’t have a traditional graduation later on this summer. Afterwards, some still didn’t understand, but they accept it more so now.
Pierce wanted to give students hope. He feels this resolution was the best they could have, and he did end the petition.
“I ended it because I felt like after the meeting I got the best possible resolution I could get, because it allows the kids to have an option.”
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