OAK HILL — Familiar faces who roamed the hallways of Oak Hill High School for the past four school years (well, technically for slightly over 3 1/2 years) can be seen this week on banners throughout the city.
Beginning Monday, Oak Hill Street Department crews began to erect banners on utility poles throughout the city bearing the visage of each of the students scheduled to graduate from OHHS as members of the Class of 2020. To help cap a school year which was robbed of any sense of normalcy by the COVID-19 pandemic, each banner features a photo of one student on one side and another student on the reverse.
The City of Oak Hill paid for the brackets used in the project, as well as providing the labor to put the banners in place. The high school covered the expenses for the banners themselves.
"Council was very receptive to being involved," said Oak Hill City Manager Bill Hannabass. "Our graduating seniors are our future, and we try to support our youth any way we can.
"It was the least we could do."
Also this week, Oak Hill High Principal Katie Hayes said school representatives will begin the process of delivering diplomas to graduates bright and early on Wednesday, May 20. All administrators and a group of teachers will drive to all of their students' homes, unless the senior requested an alternate delivery site or asked that their diplomas be mailed, she said.
This week, students will receive diplomas, report cards, transcripts and any graduation regalia, such as honor graduation stoles and National Honor Society cords. To pay tribute to the schools they left at the start of this school year after their former schools were closed in 2019, ex-Fayetteville High School students will receive green and white cords, and former Valley High School students will get blue and gray cords.
In addition to the banners, Hayes said, the Oak Hill High/Collins High School Alumni Association has stepped in to help honor the pending graduates.
Hayes said the school is also planning a small ceremony for students "who are leaving for the military before our 'normal' graduation." That is tentatively set for Tuesday, May 26.
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Fayette County Schools will conduct belated graduation ceremonies for its high school seniors on Saturday, Aug. 1, according to Superintendent Terry George.
Ceremonies on that day will occur as follows: Meadow Bridge High (9:30 a.m.), Midland Trail High (1:30 p.m.) and Oak Hill High (6 p.m.) The ceremonies will take place on the respective schools' football fields.
The county's three public high school graduation ceremonies were originally scheduled for this weekend, but those plans had to be altered due to health guidelines associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Various options have been discussed in recent weeks with central office personnel, board of education members, and staff and students from the three schools. George said he didn't want the decision on how and when to stage graduation to be a "top-down" decision. "We didn't try to dictate. We involved our kids and our building principals."
On Aug. 1, the students will get the chance to accept their diplomas in person, albeit several weeks later than anticipated due to the pandemic.
"They get to walk across the stage to pick up their diplomas," George said of the graduating seniors. If social distancing measures are still in place, the seniors will look "6 feet to their left and 6 feet to their right" and watch their fellow seniors share in the big day.
If pandemic-related guidelines permit at that time, parents will be allowed to sit in the bleachers to view the event, George said. Allowing the parents the chance to see their child accept their diploma was one of the driving forces behind the eventual decision. "We hope conditions will ease enough to get the parents in the bleachers," he said.
If that is not possible, then parents will be permitted to attend the ceremony and watch their student graduate via a jumbo screen provided by the county. It was available on Aug. 1, George said, and ceremonies have been staggered enough that the jumbo screen can be on hand at each location. George likened the screen to one utilized at a NASCAR race, many of which he's attended over the years.
The commencement services will also be broadcast on WZTS, Cozi TV, WZTS Facebook, Roku TV (WZTS as the identifier), and The River 107.7 FM.
George praised the seniors and their leaders for persevering under less-than-ideal conditions.
"I congratulate not only the senior class but their parents and their teachers and their principals," he said. "It's a tremendous accomplishment under truly adverse conditions.
"Our seniors ... rallied around themselves. They are truly amazing, outstanding young people. I'm so proud of these kids."
George will retire on June 30, so he won't be superintendent on Aug. 1, but "all three principals have invited me back, and I'll be there."
Closer to the ceremony, representatives from each school will don their caps and gowns and film a promotion to run on Cozi TV, George said.
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