Traditional high school graduation ceremonies at the Landers Center in Southaven this year will not take place for the senior class of DeSoto County high schools. Supt. Cory Uselton Thursday, May 21 announced that each school will plan instead to have smaller ceremonies on their campuses.
The decision comes after the state Department of Education announced on Tuesday, May 19 specific guidelines about holding high school graduations. The guidelines included the limitation of outdoor ceremonies to no more than 100 outside and no more than 50 inside. The announcement also addressed social distancing guidelines.
“Our senior class sizes range from 204 students to 412 students,” said Uselton. “With a maximum allowed occupancy of 100 people, we couldn’t even have a ceremony with half of the students together. And obviously, we would want family members to be there also.”
School officials were planning for the possibility of holding traditional events in June or July that would include limiting spectator attendance and following the social distancing guidelines.
Parents were informed on Thursday about the new limitations placed by the state.
A schedule has been formulated for cap and gown distribution and ceremonies will be held in small group settings on each campus between June 8-12. Caps and gowns will be picked up at the high schools between June 1-4.
During these ceremonies, seniors will wear their caps and gowns, and their principal will present them with their diplomas. Seniors will be able to invite six guests to the ceremony.
More information will be sent to senior parents by the individual schools in the upcoming days.
Uselton said the district had been looking at a wide range of options to hold graduation ceremonies with restrictions set due to the coronavirus situation.
“We were looking at every option possible to be able to have traditional ceremonies for our seniors,” Uselton said. “We considered hosting our graduations at our high school football stadiums, I had several conversations with the staff at the Landers Center about seating arrangements, and I communicated with event planners at larger facilities such as the Liberty Bowl and FedExForum.”
Uselton said the school district wants to make sure a memorable graduation experience still takes place for the senior class.
“While our school district will not be allowed to perform traditional graduation ceremonies, the focus is now on offering our seniors a personalized graduation experience in the upcoming weeks,” he said. “We were putting every effort into planning a traditional graduation ceremony for our seniors, but we all know that guidance changes from day-to-day in every facet of our lives right now.”