Graduation ceremonies moved to National Peanut Fesitval fairgrounds

Graduation ceremonies for Dothan City Schools and Houston County Schools will be held at the National Peanut Festival amphitheater this year.

To deal with social distancing restrictions, Dothan City Schools and Houston County Schools will hold their high school graduation ceremonies drive-thru style at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds this year.

Additionally, Geneva County high schools will graduate at their respective football stadiums.

School administrators statewide are developing graduation plans to spread out people and limit crowds because of COVID-19.

Eric Mackey, the state school superintendent, recommended to local systems that anyone attending a ceremony “exercise personal responsibility” by following guidelines that include wearing facial coverings and frequently washing hands.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has discouraged large group gatherings. A spokesman for the agency, Ryan Easterling, said maintaining proper social distancing will still be required.

“If they’re going to have to have a graduation ceremony, they have to maintain the 6-foot rule,” he said.

Dothan High School’s graduation ceremony will be held drive-thru style on Saturday, June 6, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the north parking lot.

“Dothan City Schools remains dedicated to providing the graduating class of 2020 with a dignified, year-end celebration that the students deserve while following the permitted and specific commencement scenarios outlined by Alabama state Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey,” a news release stated. “School and district leadership believe the drive-thru commencement scenario provides the safest option with the greatest opportunity to share our pride, recognition, and school spirit for the Class of 2020.”

Details of ceremonies

Each graduate will receive a ticket for his or her car to enter the fairgrounds. Only vehicles with tickets will be allowed to enter and car occupants will be required to remain inside of their vehicles for the duration of the program, with exception to the graduate when their name is called to walk across the stage.

During the recognition, the ceremony will be broadcast live on WOOF radio stations at 560 AM, 100.1 FM and 107.1 FM. Large digital boards will display the graduates for viewing throughout the fairgrounds parking lot. The ceremony also will be livestreamed on the district’s Facebook page.

Graduates are scheduled to arrive at 7 a.m. and gates close at 8:15 a.m. No restroom facilities will be available.

Additional recognition for Dothan seniors include a virtual baccalaureate service, with details being developed with Ridgecrest Baptist Church; graduate yard signs that will be delivered to the home of each graduating senior; and virtual graduation.

Houston County Schools will hold its graduations at the fairgrounds’ amphitheater on May 21 and 22 in a slightly more traditional fashion.

“It will be kind of traditional, except parents will stay in their cars in the outfield and graduates will be seated until we call their names while we try to keep them 6 feet apart,” Houston County Superintendent David Sewell said.

Each graduate will get two tickets; each ticket is good to admit one car. Family members are asked to stay in or close to their vehicles during the service.

Each school will have a different date and ceremony start time.

» Cottonwood High School, May 21 at 7:30 a.m.

» Houston County High School, May 21 at 10 a.m.

» Ashford High School, May 21 at 7 p.m.

» Rehobeth High School, May 22, first session at 7:30 a.m. and second session at 10 a.m.

» Wicksburg High School, May 22 at 7 p.m.

Sewell said salutatorians and valedictorians will be able to give their speeches, and ceremonies will be as close to normal as the schools can manage.

Geneva County

Geneva County Schools announced graduation plans on its Facebook page for its three high schools.

Ceremonies will be held on high school football fields, where a 6-foot distance can be maintained between graduates and families.

Seniors will receive their honors, scholarships and accolades during the ceremony.

The dates and times of the ceremonies are:

» Slocomb High School, Newton Tew Field, May 29, 7:30 p.m.; in case of inclement weather, alternate dates are May 30 and May 31.

» Geneva County High School, J.D. Chesteen Field at Dixie Howell Stadium, June 1, 7:30 p.m.; in case of inclement weather, the alternate dates are June 2 and June 3.

» Samson High School, Alva Hawke Stadium, June 4 at 7:30 p.m.; in case of inclement weather, alternate dates are June 5 and June 6.

“The dates for each school were set based on when our schools have students leaving for military service,” the announcement stated. “We do not know how many guests will be allowed to accompany each graduate yet; we are working on that now.”

A stage will be set up in the end zone, and graduates and parents will be seated on the football field. Other family members and guests will be seated in the bleachers on the home and visitor sides.

“Thank you for your patience as we have had to work through unprecedented times to hold our graduation ceremonies,” the post continued. “We will continue to update you as our plans are solidified.”

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

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