Over the past several weeks, we have worked with the Arkadelphia High School faculty leadership team and the 2020 Senior class student leadership team to gather input on having a non-traditional graduation ceremony in May rather than waiting, in the hopes of having a traditional graduation ceremony later. While our students and staff desired the traditional ceremony that these graduating seniors have dreamed of since Kindergarten, our student leadership team felt strongly about making sure ALL Seniors had the opportunity for a graduation ceremony, even if it had to be non-traditional. AHS is blessed to have several service-minded Seniors that are enlisting in the armed forces and will be leaving in late May / early June. The Senior leadership team recognized the importance of including them in our ceremony, and that by delaying, they would not have the opportunity to hear their name called by their Principal and receive their diploma personally from the Arkadelphia Public School District Superintendent. With that being said, Arkadelphia Public School District will conduct a non-traditional graduation ceremony on May 16, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. with a drive-thru format at Arkadelphia High School.
The Governor and Commissioner of Education set forth guidelines and an approval process for non-traditional ceremonies during a press conference on April 25, 2020. At that time, they also stated that traditional ceremonies should not be scheduled prior to July 1st, but there is still no guarantee that restrictions will be lifted at that time. Arkadelphia submitted a proposal and was granted final approval by the Departments of Education and Health yesterday, May 5th, to proceed with a non-traditional drive-thru ceremony. We encourage all graduating seniors to participate.
Procedural information for the AHS Drive-Thru Graduation:
Graduates will begin arriving on campus at 9:00 a.m. on May 16th dressed in their cap, gown and any honor regalia allowed by AHS graduation rules (see student handbook p. 17). They will be assigned a time interval for arrival and parking space based on last name. Graduates will arrive at their scheduled check-in time with their guests in a single vehicle. Cars will arrive via High School Drive and leave via Badger Drive towards Malone Drive. Graduates will stop at Point A (see map) which will be staffed by a school resource officer and two school nurses. A COVID-19 Screening (temperature check and questionnaire) and PPE check will occur (face mask and gloves required for graduate). The graduate will then proceed onto the parking lot to their assigned parking space (alphabetically assigned in advance). At approximately 10:00 a.m., graduates will be directed to drive, in assigned order, around the High School and form a line of vehicles at the barrier in front of the AHS Field House. A faculty member with a radio will be at the barrier (Point B) and will allow graduates to proceed in their vehicles to Point C when the previous graduate has completed the ceremony and pulled away from Point C. When a graduate proceeds to Point C they will exit their vehicle and proceed to the “stage” which will be under the awning of the football field entry. The following people will be on or near the Stage during the graduation ceremony. (Arkadelphia High School Principal, APSD Superintendent, the Graduate, Videographer, Still Photographer, and the diploma coordinator). All will have gloves and face coverings, and will be socially distanced at least 6 feet apart with a taped “X” for each position. During each ceremony, families will stay in their vehicle as graduates walk to the diploma coordinator and report their name. The Diploma coordinator will hand the diploma to the superintendent. The principal will read the graduate’s name. The Superintendent will hand the diploma to the student. The process will be live fed to the internet and a still photo will be taken. The graduate will be able to pick up graduation programs and then head back to their vehicle. The vehicle will then leave Point C where the school resource officer will be stationed to ensure proper traffic flow around the back of Goza Middle School. As the vehicle exits Point C, the diploma coordinator will request via radio the next car to proceed from Point B to Point C.
Point A Specifics: Staffed by the School Nurses(2) and a School Resource officer. Temperature Check. COVID - 19 Questionnaire. Face mask and Gloves Check (The graduate must have a mask and gloves to participate in the ceremony).
Point B / AHS Field House Barrier: Staffed by a Faculty Member. Cars stop here until allowed to proceed one by one to the graduation area.
Point C Specifics. The graduate’s car stops here. The family remains in the car to view the ceremony. The graduate proceeds to the stage area under the Football stadium entry.
Graduate Stage Area (Football Stadium Entry): Staffed by Principal, Superintendent, Videographer, Still Photographer, and Diploma Coordinator (all with gloves and face coverings; and socially distanced). The graduate receives their diploma and graduation programs. Video and a still photo are taken. The graduate will be allowed to remove their face mask for the photo.
Exit via Goza back parking lot: Staffed by a police officer. Cars exit the parking lot here and proceed to Malone Drive.
Health precautions to be taken, as required by the State Department of Health:
Preparation of diplomas will be done in advance by 1-2 AHS staff members.
Staff preparing diplomas and those working the event will be screened (questioned and temperature checked) and wearing appropriate PPE (gloves and masks).
Additional police officers will be in cars stationed around the parking lot and entrance/exit areas to ensure guests remain in their cars and follow traffic flow directions.
Graduates will receive written guidance by email and via website and social media, in advance, outlining the Health Guidelines / Screening components and PPE requirements, asking them and family members to stay home if any of the screening symptoms or circumstances are present.
Students and staff with speaking responsibilities in the program will record speeches on a separate day, individually by appointment, to be edited into a final video production of the graduation ceremony, following the order of the Graduation program. Face masks may be removed while speaking. Podium/microphone will be sanitized between each speaker.
The drive-thru ceremony will be live-streamed on the Arkadelphia Facebook page on May 16th. The full video production will be released on May 23rd for families and the community to view in their homes.
We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our graduating seniors’ lives and taken away many traditions, as well. We want to provide an opportunity for ALL of our seniors to celebrate their accomplishments. If restrictions are lifted later this summer, we will plan a public celebration for these graduates. We know the Arkadelphia community is proud of these seniors and wants the opportunity to celebrate with them! Thank you all for your continued support of our students.
Dr. Karla Neathery
Superintendent, Arkadelphia Public School District