The first graduating class of the Gulf Shores City Schools will have the opportunity to celebrate with a traditional graduation May 29, at 7 p.m. at The Wharf Amphitheater.
Parents and students were given a choice of a virtual, drive-thru or traditional ceremony when allowed. An overwhelming number chose a traditional ceremony with a date in late June. But after an update to local superintendents May 8, Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey announced graduation ceremonies would be allowed under the amendment of current Public Health Order effective May 11.
“As I read the order, graduation ceremonies are allowed beginning Monday, May 11, 2020, with unlimited attendees so long as the ceremonies are held in compliance with the order. At a minimum, gatherings must be held in a facility that would allow a distance of 6 feet between families. Family members of the same household may sit together without regard to the social distance rule. Even though graduation ceremonies are not worship services, they are essentially in the same category, so you may find this public health document helpful: https://alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/assets/cov-sah-worship.pdf,” Mackey wrote.
The change allowed for the consideration of an earlier date. At the Gulf Shores City Schools Regular School Board meeting May 14, superintendent Dr. Matt Akin updated the board on the decision to move graduation to May 29.
“As we looked at it, May was less of an unknown. There is a lot of unknowns about how the virus is spreading and what’s going to be safe and not be safe. We felt like we had a better chance of guaranteeing a traditional graduation with social distancing in May than we would in June,” Akin said.
May 29 was chosen to give families as much time as possible to notify people that would be attending. Akin also said they have plans to provide live streaming for those who are unable to attend.
“Safety of the students and families is paramount,” Akin said. Everyone in attendance will be asked to wear masks. Sanitation stations, signage and security will be placed throughout the venue.
State health guidelines for large gathering will be followed and include:
The number of guests must be monitored at the ceremony. Each senior will receive 12 tickets. Members of the same household will be able to sit together in clusters but must remain 6 feet (3 ½ seats) from non-family members. Seating will be marked to indicate the 6 feet requirement. Social distancing instructions will be provided. Security personnel will be on-site to monitor and enforce social distancing guidelines.