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NHS graduation penciled in for July 17


By John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

Nashville High School has set Friday, July 17, as the tentative date for a traditional graduation ceremony for the class of 2020, Superintendent Doug Graham said Monday.

If the date receives state approval, graduation will be held at 8 p.m. in Scrapper Arena. “Details to follow,” Graham said.

The date depends on approval from Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the Arkansas Department of Education and the Arkansas Department of Health.

Last Saturday, April 25, Hutchinson said there would be no in-person graduation ceremonies in Arkansas until at least July 1 as efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak continue.

Hutchinson and education director Johnny Key said schools may submit graduation plans to the state for approval, based on guidelines from the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Seating at graduation could be available only to “a limited number of guests,” Graham said, or it could be open. “We should know by June 30 when the governor makes an announcement on public gatherings for July.”

Nashville High School “will get everything in motion for July 17. If the governor vetoes it, we will mail diplomas to the graduates,” according to Graham.

The class of 2020 includes 114 students, Graham said. “We know on the front end that we may not have 100 percent attendance, but I want to celebrate this class on July 17.”

Principal Tate Gordon said valedictorian, salutatorian, honor graduates and scholarshhip recipients will be announced Wednesday, May 13, in the News-Leader.

He said graduation practice will be held in the arena at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 15, if the state approves.

Schools have been closed to on-site instruction since March 16. During that time, some districts have begun to plan virtual graduation ceremonies in lieu of students participating in a traditional event.

Graham told the school board April 6 that he wanted to postpone the original May 17 ceremony and reschedule it when the coronavirus pandemic abates. “I want these seniors to be able to get together one last time and sit together one last time,” he said.

“These kids are losing out on a lot of spring activities. They’re missing prom, spring sports, band concerts” and other events, Graham said. “We can’t fix a lot of the other things, but we can have graduation.”

Seniors who were in good standing at the end of the third nine weeks have completed their high school careers, with the exception of those enrolled in concurrent college classes, the state announced in early April. Those seniors are continuing to work on the concurrent classes.

Gordon, Assistant Principal Krysta Parker and Counselor Crystal Evans placed senior signs along Mt. Pleasant Drive Monday morning. Each sign has a senior’s picture and name.

Last week, former Nashville Elementary School teacher Becky Floyd delivered yard signs to each senior. The signs were paid for by donations.