• 72°

WSN to host face-to-face graduation

W.S. Neal High School announced a date for graduation. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, many questions have surrounded the event.
Joined by other high schools within the Escambia County School System, the school plans to host a socially distanced graduation ceremony on Fri. May 22.
The closed ceremony will take place at the school. Only two seniors accompanied by 4 family members will be allowed to attend in shifts.
“Ideally what we are doing is not what we want, we would love to celebrate in the fashion, where everybody gets to watch, come across, shake hands, hug, throw their caps, but we just can’t do it with the safety standards right now,” said WSN Principal Matthew Hodge.
With the amended Safer at Home order for the state, Hodge and other administration felt it necessary to have a closed ceremony.
“Even though Kay Ivey sent the new guidelines out last Fri., it is still not enough for us to congregate,” said Hodge.
Many factors contributed to the decision, included a survey sent to the Class of 2020. Polling the students, WSN, Flomaton High School, and Escambia County High School conducted a survey among the senior students.
“We sent surveys out to our seniors with three different choices. The best alternative we have is we are going to do a face to face graduation,” explained Hodge.
Faced with three different options, seniors chose the face-to-face option over a drive-by graduation and/or the decision to wait for a better time. Hodge shared, “This was the pick and it wasn’t their choice they wanted of course. But, I have kids committed to the military. I have 3 or 4 that would miss it if we waited.” Continuing, he explained the importance of having the ceremony now. “What we are trying to do is give the seniors some normality and finish thier year the way it needs to be finished so they can move on to thier next stage in life,” he said.
As far as the ceremony, Hodge expects the event to last a little longer than most graduations. “The kids will come in at 8 a.m. and we will be finished by 2 p.m. hopefully,” said Hodge.
Each student will be given the opportunity to walk across the stage and take part in the procession. “They are going to walk across the stage and shake hands, but we are going to do it in small groups and when I say small groups-2 students at a time. So they can bring family in. Right now we have said 4 family members, so that is 5 with the graduates so that is 10 total. They are going to come in. They are going to do the procession like they would do, just by themselves. They will come across, I will hand them the diploma and shake their hand. The whole time we will be videoing,” he shared.
After all graduates receive the diploma, a video editor will construct a graduation video to be shared to YouTube.
“It is going to be a normal program. It just will be done in segments, videod and edited,” said Hodge. The video will be available at 7 p.m. on Fri. May 22 via YouTube and Facebook.