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Schools plan for ‘normal’ graduation

The 20-21 school year has provided a far-from-normal high school experience, but a sense of normal is beginning to return as graduation nears for local seniors.

These seniors have not been able to do everything former students have enjoyed because of the pandemic, but both school systems in Franklin County will target a semi-normal experience when graduation is held at each school May 28.

“It has been a long year, full of a lot of difficult decisions,” said Russellville City Schools Superintendent Heath Grimes. “The fact that we can try to be back to normal and give these students as close to a normal graduation as possible is something I don’t think many people expected to happen.”

Franklin County Schools Superintendent Greg Hamilton said being able to host semi-normal graduation ceremonies says a lot about the students and faculty who have worked hard to limit COVID case numbers.

“We have a great group that has done what they were asked to do,” Hamilton said. “It says a lot that we were able to make this year as successful as it was.”

FCS graduations will have seats marked for social distancing, but there will be no limit to the number of people who can attend. The only limits to graduation attendees will be if a graduation is held inside, which will include some limited capacity.

Tharptown and Belgreen will both require tickets to attend since, they are holding the ceremonies inside, but all other FCS graduations will be outside and not require a ticket to attend.

Students will be social distanced, but all other graduation activities will seem fairly common.

“We are happy to see some of the things we are used to coming back,” Hamilton said.

Tharptown and Vina graduation will begin at 6 p.m., and all other county schools will begin graduation at 7 p.m.

Russellville High School will have graduation outside at Golden Tiger Stadium, taking advantage of both sides of the field, with the students spread throughout the field.

“This way parents are able to sit on the side they know their child will be closer to, and it will help with maintaining social distancing,” Grimes said.

Graduation will begin for RHS at 7:30 p.m. and not require tickets to attend.

Grimes said he always works to make decisions that will be the best for all of students, but one thing he is excited about with this year’s traditional graduation ceremony is being able to present his oldest child with her diploma.

“I know I am excited I get to do that, so I also understand how excited other parents are that we are able to have a ceremony,” Grimes said. “So much has been taken from these kids, so it is nice to know at least this part of their high school experience will be normal.”