Family friendly feel

Commencements set from June 13 to June 19 for FHS, Bearden, HVA with ‘guest’ attendance; ‘drive-bys’ center stage

While Farragut-area Class of 2020 seniors were honored with three special “drive-by” celebrations in the past week alone, Knox County School officials reversed themselves concerning commencement dates and public attendance.

KCS announced late last week that high schools would indeed be holding graduation ceremonies open to a limited number of family members and other guests beginning Monday, June 8 — most taking place on each school’s respective football fields, including the three area public high schools.

Farragut High School’s graduation ceremony is set to begin at 7 p.m., Friday, June 19. Hardin Valley Academy commencement exercises will begin at 7 p.m., Monday, June 15. Graduation ceremony for Bearden High School will begin at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 13.

Previously, KCS officials indicated ceremonies would be held in July or August, while prohibiting any guests, and proposing ceremonies be live-streamed. Many parents in the community, along with Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, objected to those plans — and within a week school officials had changed course.

According to an announcement on the KCS website, seniors will be allowed to bring up to four guests, but “attendees will be expected to follow precautionary guidelines, such as physical distancing among guests, wearing a mask or cloth face covering and staying home if experiencing (illness) symptoms.”

FHS 2020 celebration

Wade and Jennifer Cornelius, parents of FHS Class of 2020 senior Makayla Cornelius, were not going to let what was supposed to be Graduation Night go by unnoticed.

The family rented yard signs from Sign Gypsies congratulating Makayla, along with an oversized balloon decoration from Above the Rest Balloon and Event design spelling out “FHS” and “2020,” and planned a drive-by celebration at their Brixworth home starting at 5 p.m., Saturday, May 16, then going “all day” Sunday, May 17 — around the time seniors and their families would have been heading to Thompson Boling Arena for FHS graduation exercises if COVID-19 hadn’t cancelled those plans.

But Jennifer, who is described by her daughter’s friends as “being a wonderful hostess,” had an idea to open up her yard to others in Makayla’s class and posted on Facebook the chance for other seniors and their families to visit.

“I just wanted to do something to help bring a little joy into their day ...,” Jennifer said.

“At least we have gotten to spend the evening with friends,” senior Darby Schiek said.

“We probably would have ended up right back here after graduation (had it been in Thompson-Boling Arena),” senior Aimee Wagner said.

Jennifer said she received “about 90 messages throughout the night thanking us.”

Terri Tucker, parent of senior Garrett Tucker, said the Cornelius event “was super thoughtful.”

HVA, Lakeridge parades

Enjoying parades were graduating seniors at Hardin Valley Academy and within Lakeridge subdivision (along Northshore Drive featuring Bearden High School honorees, but also seniors from three other schools).

Accompanied by an almost unbroken cascade of honking horns, traffic was at a snail’s pace on Hardin Valley Road in front of HVA for about 45 minutes Thursday evening, May 14, the original class graduation date.

Scores of vehicles, many decorated to specifically recognize their HVA graduate, started west then circled back to the east to honor the entire Class of 2020, who were lined up, in blue graduation gowns, along the road.

Class of 2020 graduates living in Lakeridge, about two miles west of Pellissippi Parkway, were honored with a parade Sunday evening.

With a caravan of about a dozen vehicles — about half decorated in BHS Bulldogs maroon — the parade featured nine seniors, six from Bearden: Grant Horton, Nicholas Doty, Luke Leveille, Katie Rogers, Gian Esposito and Jackson Fisher. Other parade honorees were Tyler Blair of Farragut High School, Anna-leise Bradbury of Webb School of Knoxville and Gabel Fulford of Christian Academy of Knoxville.

“The best part about organizing this parade was seeing so many neighbors out supporting all the seniors ... so heartwarming to watch,” said Kari Hortson, parade organizer and Grant’s mother.

Kari was quick to credit parents Kim Blair, Kim Bradbury and Tonja Doty for “helping this become a reality.”