New graduation ceremony plans announced for Paris students amid pandemic

Miranda Holman
Paris Express

Seniors in the Paris School District will soon get their chance to walk across the graduation stage. The traditional May ceremonies were postponed due to the no large gathering guidelines that were placed during to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now restrictions have been lifted somewhat, allowing groups to gather when social distancing precautions are being taken.

Paris Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fawcett confirmed that the Arkansas Department of Education, Division of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved the Paris School District Graduation Plan based on strict adherence to conditions.

Paris School will hold a traditional graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 at the football stadium on Saturday, July 18, at 10 a.m.

Each graduating senior will be given six tickets for admission and only a person with a ticket will be admitted to the stadium. Families should enter as a group through the main entrance and sit together.

"There will be no exceptions for admission without a ticket; this includes any child of any age; babies will require a ticket. This is ADH and ADE guidance," said Fawcett.

Officials confirmed the main gate would open at 8:30 a.m. and the home side bleachers will be marked for areas where the families must sit together. All areas will be six feet apart, with every other row left open. The visitor bleachers will not be accessible. The bleacher area will be cleaned and disinfected before the ceremony and hand sanitizer stations will be available at the entrance and within the stadium.

"Every person over the age of ten will be required to wear a mask for the entire graduation program."

Students and faculty will be seated on the field at six ft intervals. Once the ceremony is over, guests are required to leave the stadium immediately, congregating within the stadium area is not allowed, said Fawcett.

"There is no doubt that the last quarter of the 2019-20 school year has been unlike any other in recent memory. The seniors have been deprived of many events that are a part of the experience of the last year of school (sports, prom, competitions, etc.). As I have talked with several of them, certainly, they are disappointed, but they have met the challenges head-on with determination, grace and resilience. Unfortunately, these seniors are learning the hard lesson early that life isn't fair and difficult circumstances will present in life that must be faced and overcome. They are doing this now and, speaking for the Paris School District, we are extremely proud of them. We have no doubt that they will continue to meet their challenges and be successful. We are very happy that the graduation plan was approved and at least one rite of passage can happen with some normalcy."

The ceremony will be live-streamed to a YouTube link to be published a week before the ceremony. It will also be recorded with each senior receiving a copy.