Grads go virtual, onsite, parentless?

While Knox Christian graduation virtual, CCS open to families on campus, Knox Schools’ ‘no family’ gets a ‘shame on you’

Knox County Schools announced a tentative plan for onsite high school graduations Wednesday, May 6, that, would only include students — no family members.

While in no way final, the initial plans call for outdoor ceremonies at high school football fields sometime between July 27 and Aug. 8. Parents could watch the event live online, and would receive a recording of the ceremony.

Carol Shorter Hart, whose daughter, Anna Hart, is among the Class of 2020 at Hardin Valley Academy (which was to have graduated May 14), was upset when the announcement was first made.

“Enough is enough Knox County Schools, shame on you,” she posted on Facebook, and agreed to be quoted in farragutpress. “... so let me get this straight — you want me to drop off my special ed student, sit in the car, watch her graduate on video, have her leave the stadium after she walks across stage to come to the car and for the very last person to just sit there through the whole thing while everybody else has left and be the last one to walk across the stage with nobody watching them?

“Rethink this plan, and you better be quick about it or you’re going to have a real problem with a bunch of baby mamas.”

However, Farragut resident Susan Horn, chair of Knox County Board of Education and District 5 representative, said no plan has been finalized at this point and made the following remarks on Facebook the day after the initial announcement.

“Senior Parents — as your school board representative, I want to share some thoughts on graduation,” Horn stated. “The Board of Education had a workshop last night and Dr. (Martha) Buchanan from the Knox County Health Department joined us to talk about graduation.

“It was obvious to me from the conversation that all Board members want parents to be able to attend graduation,” she added. “ Speaking with Dr. Buchanan, asof today with what is known, the graduation plan offered is what we can offer at this point. So at least it gives dates (during Phase 3) and will allow schools to begin making plans for having graduation on football fields.

“We asked Dr. Buchanan if our community numbers remain low, is there the possibility of lifting some of the restrictions on graduation (could a limited number of family members attend?) She said that is a possibility, but a lot will depend on how our community follows guidelines — wearing masks, washing hands, not having large gatherings.

“Today, under guideline from the Health (department), KCS was able to issue the current graduation plans. Let’s all try to be part of the solution on helping keep Knox County’s COVID-19 numbers low so that hopefully parents can attend.”

Alisha Soni, Farragut High School Class of 2020 valedictorian, said she is encouraged by the dialogue.

“I just want to say that I appreciate Knox County making an effort to hold some sort of in-person celebration given the current situation,” Soni said. “A lot of other counties have made no effort whatsoever and immediately resorted to doing graduation online.

(FHS graduation originally was to be held Saturday, May 16)

“Although it’s not ideal, I think the county is doing the best that they can right now,” the senior added. “I don’t think anyone can expect a completely normal graduation given the current situation, and there is still a lot of time between now and the end of July for things to change — for the better or for the worse.

“Hopefully, this situation will get better in the next few months and things can proceed in a way that takes everyone’s safety and health into consideration.”

“I know these plans are subject to change, but I am still excited about the current plans,” fellow FHS graduating senior Amy Enyenihi added. ”It is an unfortunate situation to be in, but I am very grateful for what the administration was able to come up with.

“I have heard some disappointment from others, but I think we need to remember we are still battling a pandemic. The administration has curated a plan that both lets us have a graduation ceremony and keeps us safe and protected. I understand it is not the Thompson Bowling Arena experience we were expecting; however, it’s important to remember the current circumstances.”

Monday, May 11, Horn added, “The superintendent (Bob Thomas) and his team have a strong history of working closely with the Knox County Health Department. In addition to holding graduations for our seniors, the District also desires that school resumes in August.

“... District leaders certainly hear the concerns of community members and parents and continue to review graduation plans in relation to current virus spread,” she added.

Concord Christian School will hold Commencement for its Class of 2020 graduates, which are open to family in-person attendance, beginning at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 16, on campus.