Graduation ceremonies to be held at high schools

Josh FloryInside 640, Our Town Kids, Our Town Teens

On Thursday evening, Feb. 18, Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas sent the following message to Class of 2021 families about this year’s graduation ceremonies:

Dear KCS families,

Commencement season is approaching, and I wanted to share some important information about how we will celebrate the Class of 2021.

Because of the ongoing impact of COVID-19, we have decided to host in-person graduation ceremonies at our high school campuses, as we did last year. In most cases, these ceremonies will be held on each school’s football field, and the overall schedule can be found here.

Our students, especially our seniors, have endured so many challenges and disruptions, but we are committed to providing them with a graduation they will remember. Last year’s ceremonies were a huge success and we are confident that outdoor celebrations will once again allow our graduates to be honored and recognized for their tremendous achievements, while also protecting the safety of our school communities.

Graduation ceremonies will be held on May 27 and June 1-8, avoiding Memorial Day weekend. Rain dates will be scheduled on June 10-12. Each graduate will be provided tickets for up to six guests and ceremonies will also be live-streamed, with archived videos available for viewing later. COVID-19 protocols will remain in place, including limited capacity, social distancing and face covering requirements.

While these dates represent a change from our traditional calendar, we do not believe it is feasible to hold on-campus ceremonies while high school students are attending class and completing exams. Some of the factors that were considered in our scheduling decision included:

  • It would be difficult to have graduation while school is still in session, with AP testing occurring and staff finalizing grades and working on master schedules.
  • We would not be able to hold multiple graduations during the day while school is in session.
  • The current attendance restrictions in place at Thompson-Boling Arena would likely mean fewer guests can attend.
  • The vendor that supplied the stages and chairs last year has told us that due to their scheduling demands it would be difficult to work with us during the month of May.
  • By having graduation after school has ended, students would have additional days to recover credits that may allow them to fulfill graduation requirements.

We are excited to host these special events, and your student’s school will be sharing more details with you soon.

Thank you again for your understanding and patience, and we look forward to celebrating with you!

Kenneth Smith, director of bands at Austin-East High School

After the recent deaths of three students from Austin-East High School, the Roadrunner band program is launching a musical project that aims to bring the community together.

Kenneth Smith, director of bands for A-E, is hosting a virtual collaboration to produce a version of the classic Bill Withers song “Lean On Me.” “All they need is just their positive attitude, a good heart, their instrument and some headphones,” he said.

Smith said the project was open to anyone who wants to sing or play an instrument, and that the arrangement will depend on how many people take part in the project. The sign up for participants closed on Feb. 26.

Josh Flory is a multi-media specialist with Knox County Schools and writes this blog, Hall Pass, for the KCS website.

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