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How each local high school will hold graduation ceremonies in pandemic
Graduation stock.jpg

Over the next couple of weeks, hundreds of students around Hall County will receive their high school diplomas. Commencement ceremonies will look different from other years, but area schools are doing what they can to make sure the class of 2020 is sent off in memorable fashion while still adhering to social distancing recommendations. 

Many students will walk across makeshift stages at their school campuses. Some schools also will be showing videos of those walks. A couple of schools have postponed ceremonies to this summer.

Cherokee Bluff High School

When:  8:30 p.m. May 23

Cherokee Bluff’s graduation ceremony began earlier this week. The school spent Monday through Wednesday bringing seniors and their families into the school one group at a time to walk across the stage in the school’s theater and receive their diplomas. Each walk was recorded on video, as were speeches from Cherokee Bluff’s valedictorian and salutatorian. 

The videos will be combined into one film, which Cherokee Bluff will air on a four-story tall screen in a field adjacent to the school’s parking lot at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, May 23. 

Chestatee High School

When: 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. May 21

Chestatee will be holding three separate ceremonies on the evening of Thursday, May 21. Students will pick up tickets to the ceremony they wish to attend on Friday, May 15. 

Families of graduates will park in the Chestatee parking lot, with each student permitted to bring three cars’ worth of family and friends. The school has a stage set up outside, and one at a time, graduates will exit their cars to walk across it and receive their diplomas. All three ceremonies will be live streamed. Once every student has graduated, they will all briefly exit their cars for tassel turning.

East Hall High School

When: 9 a.m., 8 p.m. May 22 

East Hall graduates will have the opportunity to walk across a stage set up outside of the East Hall gym. The graduation will be done in “drive-thru” format, with seniors being allowed to exit vehicles to receive their diplomas when they arrive at the stage. Students will arrive between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. depending on their advisement period teacher, and seniors are limited to three cars per graduate. After receiving a diploma, seniors will leave campus to make room for graduates arriving after them.

At 8 p.m., graduates can return to the football stadium parking lot, where speeches and a senior slideshow will be aired on a large screen in front of the stadium.

Flowery Branch High School

When: 9 a.m. May 22 

Flowery Branch graduates will arrive through the back gate of the school off of Falcon Parkway at times designated by their last names. Upon entrance, cars bearing seniors will be given hanging tags displaying order of graduation. One at a time, seniors will exit their cars as they approach a stage near the Flowery Branch front office to walk and receive their diplomas.

The ceremony will be filmed and combined with senior speeches to form a graduation video that will be sent out to students at a later date. 

Gainesville High School

When 8 p.m. July 24 

Instead of doing an altered version of commencement now, Gainesville has decided to postpone its graduation ceremony until July. The ceremony is planned to be held inside City Park Stadium at 8 p.m. July 24.

Gainesville will also be holding a Celebration Rally on May 22, during which students are encouraged to decorate their cars to drive through the Gainesville campus. Parents of seniors can park around the campus to cheer the graduates on as they “move through campus one last time.”

Johnson High School

When: 9 a.m. May 23 

Seniors will arrive at the Johnson campus at times designated by last name, starting with A and B at 9 a.m. Each graduate is limited to one car. Cars will line up and navigate a route designated by cones and faculty members. 

One at a time, seniors will be permitted to exit their cars to pose for a photograph in a staged area with Johnson principal Jonathan Edwards.

Lakeview Academy

When: 6 p.m. May 15

Seniors will be spaced out in the Lakeview Academy parking lot while parents and loved ones drive by in a parade of congratulations. Parade participants will meet at Frances Meadows Aquatic Center at 6 p.m. May 15.

At 6:10, they will line up and make the short drive to Lakeview Academy to drive through the rows of seniors. Parents and other parade participants are invited to decorate their cars for the ceremony, as well as honk at graduates as they drive by.

In addition to the parade, a conventional commencement is planned for July 18. A time and locatino has not yet been determined.

Lanier College & Career Academy 

When: 7 p.m. May 27

Students will park in designated spots at the school parking lot, with each graduate allowed two cars for family and loved ones. One at a time, seniors will exit their cars to walk across an outdoor stage and receive their diploma. At the end of the ceremony, all students will exit their cars for a group tassel turning. 

The ceremony will be filmed, and a video will be sent out to all graduates within a week of the commencement.

North Hall High School

When: 10 a.m. May 22 

North Hall seniors will arrive at the school’s campus at times designated by advisement period teacher starting at 10 a.m. Each graduate is permitted three vehicles for family and other supporters. 

Seniors will be permitted to exit their cars once they pull up to the graduation area, where they will walk across a stage to receive their diploma. A photographer and videographer will be in attendance to capture the moments. 

Riverside Military Academy

When: 6 p.m. Aug. 8

Based on consultation with seniors, Riverside Military Academy decided to postpone its commencement so it could hold a more conventional graduation ceremony on Aug. 8. 

The ceremony will take place on McLendon Quad, with Curtis Hall as a backup in the event of inclement weather.

West Hall High School

When: 10 a.m. May 23 

West Hall seniors will arrive at the school for the ceremony at times designated by advisement period teacher starting at 10 a.m. Graduates will be limited to three cars for family and friends, with the senior riding in the last car in the line. 

Graduates will have the opportunity to exit their vehicles as their name is called to walk across a stage outside the school. The event will be filmed, and a graduation video will be released to students on May 30.

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