Morgan County schools' graduations to follow social distancing, no handshakes

Superintendent Bill Hopkins Jr tells WAAY31 for the first time, all five high schools will graduate on the same night, May 18th.

Posted: May 12, 2020 9:01 PM
Updated: May 12, 2020 11:01 PM

Morgan County Schools is preparing for a unique graduation ceremony, one that includes social distancing, no congratulatory handshakes, and all high school commencements done on the same day.

Superintendent Bill Hopkins Jr tells WAAY31 for the first time, all five high schools will graduate on the same night, May 18th. Graduations will be inside the football stadiums, and capacity must be at no more than 50 percent. Hopkins says Gov. Kay Ivey adjusted health order sped up the planning process.

"We made some sort of plan preparing for this, and we were kind of holding out for May 15th, to see if she would loosen things up, so then when she came and loosened things up on Friday, it just fast tracked everything," Hopkins said.

With groups of ten or more now allowed to congregate as long as precautions are in place, it allowed the school system to get to work on a graduation plan. It will be one like the system never has seen before.

"What we've typically done is three graduations in one night and two graduations the next night. The administrators didn't feel we could do that, based on weather, based on the way things could be, because we aren't able to move inside," Hopkins said. 

Hopkins says all five high schools in the district will graduate on the same night. Bleachers will have markers on them to keep families distanced, sanitizing stations will be available throughout the stadiums, and students will avoid shaking hands when their name is called.

"We're going to have a practice, prior to the graduation for the graduates because we will not be shaking hands, we will make sure we deliver the diplomas to them and allow an opportunity for pictures those type of things," Hopkins said. 

For some high schools, the number of graduation tickets had to be reduced as well. Falkville, Danville, and West Morgan high schools granted students 8 tickets each. At Priceville and Brewer, the two largest high schools, each student could only get 6 tickets. Hopkins says it's what must be done to have a ceremony, that many have desperately wanted.

"Lots of emails, lots of phone calls, saying please, we have to have a ceremony, and we said all along that we were committed to some sort of ceremony recognizing the seniors," Hopkins said. 

The ceremonies will start at 7 p.m. on May 18. People that may be sick or high-risk are asked to stay at home.

Graduation ceremonies also are set for Morgan County's two city school systems. Decatur City Schools commencement will be May 21-22. Hartselle City Schools will graduate on May 27.

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