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Longhorns prepare for graduation

JCHS senior Emma Robinson pauses to share her future plans during the recent graduation pick-up event on May 6. Robinson is heading to Northeast State and plans to transfer to ETSU later on. Submitted photo.

By Meg Dickens

Johnson County Schools closed, but that is not stopping the administration from helping seniors celebrate to their fullest under social distancing protocol. Seniors gathered to tie up loose ends and pick up much-needed graduation items without leaving the safety of their vehicles during the Wednesday, May 6 event.

School administration set up tables in the parking lot with two lanes of access between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. Students visited their soon-to-be alma mater to pay fees, return books, or pick up graduation tickets. Each student receives two tickets. One car is equivalent to one ticket. Representatives from Jostens delivered graduation orders including, mortarboard caps, gowns, and announcements.

Other schools have done digital graduations, but Simcox says Johnson County students were adamant about graduating in-person with their peers. Graduation will be a bit unusual but will still cover all of the usual bases. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, it will be a drive-in event. The student experience will only change minutely. Students will still sit in chairs in front of the stage, but these chairs will be spaced six feet apart. They will still walk across a stage to receive a diploma but sans handshakes, and family members cannot leave their vehicles.

“I’m glad we’re able to do a group formal event,” said Simcox. “We want to make it as special as possible while following guidelines. This is their day.”

Johnson County businesses and the community chipped in to make this a possibility by donating supplies and a space that fits current health guidelines, Chamber Park. Northeast Correctional donated signs and has been mowing the site. Humphrey Masonry donated a flatbed for a stage, and local funeral homes chipped in on stage materials. Big John’s donated lumber. Mountain Electric will provide power. All along the way, administrators have been working with regional health officials to ensure that the plans meet guidelines.

As a nice gesture, administrators have decided to take photos of each student as they graduate. These photos will be given to parents free of cost. They are also reaching out to Charter to make live streaming graduation possible, as has become the custom since 2012.

The Johnson County Class of 2020 graduation will be at Chamber Park on Saturday, May 23 at 10 a.m. The Presidential Academic Excellence Achievement (PAEA) awards will be at the same place on the Friday prior at 6 p.m. Congratulations, seniors.