OH grads

In late May, Oak Hill High officials staged a special ceremony to present diplomas to several students who enlisted in the military and would be unable to attend the Aug. 1 graduation ceremony. This Saturday, seniors in Fayette County will get the chance to participate in delayed graduation ceremonies.

It took a bit longer than expected, but what's a few months between friends?

Seniors from three Fayette County public high schools will take part in graduation ceremonies this Saturday. In-person commencement events are scheduled as follows on Aug. 1:

• Meadow Bridge — 10 a.m.

• Midland Trail — 1:30 p.m.

• Oak Hill — 6 p.m.

According to Midland Trail High School Principal Richard Petitt, the school is not limiting the number of family members that can attend Saturday's event in Hico.

"However, we are only able to accommodate 520 people in our bleachers; therefore, we are asking folks to bring their own chair in the event seating in the stands are to run out," he said. "If that does indeed happen, we will socially distance folks around the track."

As of Monday, Petitt said 50 of 87 MTHS graduates had committed to attend the ceremony on Saturday.

Diplomas were delivered or mailed to each graduating student in the county in May, so they are already official Fayette County Schools graduates, said Superintendent Gary Hough.

Petitt said MTHS officials are also asking those in attendance Saturday honor the following requests:

• Wear a mask

• Keep 6 feet of distance between those not in the same household (no social gatherings)

• Sit in the designated areas of the bleachers (bleachers not marked in red)

• Follow any requests made by event staff to ensure everyone's safety

For graduates, guidelines are as follows:

• Arrive at Patriot Stadium by noon on Aug. 1

• Upon arrival, sit in assigned (labeled) chair on the track

• Graduation practice will take place prior to the ceremony

Due to the larger size of the Oak Hill High Class of 2020, Principal Katie Hayes said each graduate will get two tickets for inside John P. Duda Stadium and one carload ticket for drive-in.

Security guards will be on hand to direct traffic and parking.

Graduates have to arrive by 5:30 p.m. Guests are asked to wait until 5:30 p.m. to enter the property.

"We have nearly 200 graduates participating in graduation as we must take every precaution to socially distance," said Hayes. "All those in the stadium should have masks."

Hough said things are in place for a successful — albeit socially distanced — graduation weekend to cap a school year marred by the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.

"All the bleachers are marked or they're being marked," he said Monday. A jumbo screen will be in place for each ceremony.

"Our graduates this year had an unusual year and they definitely need to be honored," Hough continued. "Those students faced more adversity. ... They ended their senior year without all the reasons we spend those 12 years in school. Yes, we spend those 12 years to get a good education, don't get me wrong. But the culmination activities that you do, the proms, the graduations, the baccalaureates, all the issues that make that year special they didn't get to have that involvement. This is at least an opportunity.

"We definitely know that our world changed overnight, and it definitely affected the lives of those young people. It's at least an honor to be there Saturday, to honor them and show respect to their accomplishments. They had 13 years of accomplishments (counting kindergarten), and they need to be recognized for that."

Teri Harlan, administrator of the Fayette County Health Department, says the department and Fayette County Schools have worked closely together to make sure the graduation ceremonies unfold safely from a health perspective this weekend.

"Each school has worked very hard to make certain they can keep families physical distanced," she said. "I think they'll be fine."

Students are expected to socially distance while awaiting their turn to stroll across the stage.

For those who can't make it to the graduations, a live broadcast of each commencement can be found on WZTS, Cozi TV, WZTS on Facebook, Roku TV (WZTS as the identifier) and The River 107.7 FM.

Email: skeenan@register-herald.com or follow on Twitter @gb_scribe

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