TCSS to host both in-person and virtual graduations

Published 12:04 pm Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Troup County School System announced Thursday it will host a virtual commencement in June and an in-person graduation ceremony in July if health conditions allow.

“We were truly considering moving forward with May graduation ceremonies as planned,” TCSS Superintendent Brian Shumate said. “We had to take multiple things into consideration before finalizing that decision. We have heard feedback from families, our educators, and our students. We would love to go ahead as planned, but it’s just too risky. The health and safety of our students and community is extremely important and safety will remain our focus in light of this national crisis.”

System officials said in a news release that there were too many health uncertainties for the graduation services to continue as planned in May. They also noted the state continues to see a rise in cases, and they do not want a large gathering to contribute to that number. In addition, graduations in late July will allow the schools more time to respond to changes and allow for the chance that health concerns will stabilize.

Jonathan Laney, Callaway High Principal was in a recent meeting discussing graduation options.

“This may be the last time they (seniors) get together,” Laney said. “We want to be able to look at the Class of 2020 as a group and recognize them for this monumental accomplishment.”

“We have to keep our parents in mind, too,” said Troup High Principal Niki Watts. “They want to see their babies walk across the stage as much as we do. This year, the way that looks will be a little different due to what healthcare concerns may be later in the summer, but we want to make it happen.”

Therefore, TCSS officials have now decided they will provide two ways for seniors to participate in graduation ceremonies. The first type of ceremony takes place Monday, June 15 using virtual methods. These will premiere on the TCSS Facebook page and be posted on each high school and the district’s website, troup.org, at the following times:

  • 4 p.m. – Callaway High School Online Commencement Premier
  • 6 p.m. – LaGrange High School Online Commencement Premier
  • 8 p.m. – Troup High School Online Commencement Premier

The second type of ceremony will take place during in-person graduation ceremonies in July, if health conditions allow. Each ceremony will take place at 8:30 a.m. at Callaway Stadium on the following dates:

  • Thursday, July 23 – Callaway High School
  • Friday, July 24 – Troup High School
  • Saturday, July 25 – LaGrange High School

According to TCSS, the morning start time reflects an opportunity to begin before the early afternoon heat impacts attendees and potentially reduce opportunities for large gatherings. The news release said that district leadership says they will work with local employers to encourage parent attendance of the in-person graduation because the start times are during the work week.

In-person graduation dates and times are subject to change pending direction from local and state health officials. To accommodate physical distancing parameters within Callaway Stadium, and to limit safety concerns, those attending the ceremony will be encouraged to wear a mask for face covering and each graduate will receive a limited number of tickets, which will be determined at a later day.

“We all prefer the traditional graduation ceremony, but we realize that is just not practical during these unprecedented times,” Alton White, principal of LaGrange High School said. “These options still allow us to have an in-person ceremony and allow the senior class of 2020 to gather together one last time. The virtual ceremony will allow those students who may already be gone to the military or college in July to still participate while giving all graduates a memento they can keep.”

Shumate has said in the past that the school system wants to do everything it can to make this year special for the senior class.

“What’s important is that we want to have the experience for our seniors and we are prepared to make that happen even if it looks different,” he said.