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Students to Walk During ‘Different’ Graduation Ceremony

Marshall County officials discussed how to allow students to have their graduation ceremony while maintaining social distance. Pictured is Cameron High School Principal Jack Cain, Marshall County Health Administrator Tom Took, and John Marshall High School Principal Cassie Porter.

GLEN DALE — Marshall County’s students will still get to walk the stage and receive their diplomas, accompanied with all the pop and circumstance, if not the crowds.

On Tuesday, Marshall County Schools announced the graduation plans for the end of the school year, assuming the social distancing recommendations are not lifted by May 14.

Working with the Marshall County Health Department to develop the new plans, John Marshall and Cameron high schools will begin distributing caps, gowns and other regalia to students in the coming days.

Over the course of several days throughout the end of the school year, students will wait in their cars outside the school and be called inside in five-person groups. The students will walk the stage when called and have their photo taken with their principals by a professional photographer. The students will then be escorted out a different exit. Attendance at the event is optional, and the schedule of days and times for students will be communicated to the families by each school.

No physical contact will be permitted, and no photos are permitted, with the exception of the photographer. Superintendent Shelby Haines said that rule was in place to discourage group selfies among students.

Parents are also not permitted to accompany their students in. The photos and a compiled DVD of the ceremony will be distributed to students and their families at no charge. Production of the event will be handled by Communications Coordinator Tony Wood and JMHS broadcasting teacher Carly McElhaney. Wood said they would also be looking for ways to broadcast the ceremony.

John Marshall High School will see 260 graduating students, and 45 will walk at Cameron. Each school’s graduation will be held at their respective schools. In the event that the social distancing recommendations are lifted prior to the end of the school year, the ceremony will be held as normal at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.

JMHS Principal Cassie Porter said the students were excited to cap their academic careers with a ceremony, even if some modifications had to be made to ensure public safety.

“Graduation’s a big deal. These people took 13 years to get to this point, and they’re excited about it, and it’s going to be different. We wanted to make it as special as we could while … still doing everything we could do to everybody healthy and safe,” Porter said.

“They are excited that we’re working to make something special. … We’re really trying to reach out to the community through social media and make sure everyone’s decorating and getting ready for our seniors.”

Cameron High School Principal Jack Cain echoed these sentiments, saying that as school has been a part of the students’ routine nearly their whole lives, he doesn’t want to see them finish without a proper send-off.

“It’s very important. They’ve missed out on a lot of activities already, and I’m sure they don’t want to miss out on graduation,” Cain said. “They’ve been in school most of their lives one way or the other.”

Marshall County Health Administrator Tom Cook said he was impressed with the work the school faculty had put in to make graduation a reality for their students.

“It is admirable what Dr. Haines and colleagues are doing, and they need to be commended for the tireless hours that will go into this endeavor as they see it to fruition,” Cook said. “I hope every school looks at this plan that Marshall County has taken the lead in developing.

“This administration really cares about their students through these challenging and stressful times as the little things make a difference. Marshall County students have worked very hard and deserve a graduation ceremony. … The students of the 2020 graduating class will persevere during this adversity.”

Cook cautioned that social distancing guidelines should continue to be observed, especially as graduating seniors and their families will want to hold customary graduation parties as they have in years past. He said the gatherings could pose a danger to those who have other health conditions which may be exacerbated by COVID-19.

“We have to continue to reinforce the social distancing — the six feet, the groups of 10 congregating together,” Cook said. “These parties where you have family and friends coming over, you may have someone with comorbidity. If they catch (COVID-19), it may be more severe than a normal person getting the virus and getting sick. … Social distancing, hand washing, we have to reinforce that at all times.”

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