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Science Hill holds traditional graduation after May coronavirus cancellation

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Jun 19, 2020 at 10:14 PM

Science Hill High School held its traditional graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 weeks after its original ceremony was canceled because of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

The event, held at Kermit Tipton Stadium, was planned by Science Hill administration and reviewed by local health officials after recent school surveys indicated students were in favor of holding an in-person ceremony.

Principal Todd Barnett said he was “tickled to death” to hold the ceremony after seniors were forced to complete their school year remotely during school closures. He said he was proud the school system was able to pull it off despite the circumstances.

“It’s something that they’ve earned and they deserve. I’m thankful for all of them and the work everybody’s put in,” he said. “I think it’s just outstanding for our kids and this class with everything they’ve had to go through to be able to get this opportunity.”

Other school systems throughout the region and nation opted instead to hold virtual graduation ceremonies last month. Johnson City Schools joined Washington County Schools in delaying plans to hold an in-person ceremony.

Friends and family members of graduates were seated in groups of four and two and were encouraged to wear masks to help prevent the possible spread of COVID-19. Graduates were also required to wear masks throughout the event.

It did, however, appear difficult for students who had been apart since March to comply fully with social distancing guidelines prior to the ceremony.

While it wasn’t quite what many students imagined, 18-year-old graduate Isabelle Castillo Garcia said it was “relieving” to be able to attend an in-person graduation event before she attends the University of Georgia Honors College in Athens to study pre-med or dentistry.

She said seniors weren’t sure they’d be able to have a real graduation ceremony.

“Honestly, I just love seeing all my classmates again and being here one more time before going to college. It’s a great feeling,” she said.

“They’ve set it up to where everything is checked off the list. We’re all spaced apart appropriately and we all have masks, so I think they handled it very well,” she later added. “There were times when we were a little iffy about it.”

Unlike previous graduation ceremonies, families were not allowed on the field after the event.

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