High school traditions get revamped in Harrison Co. amid COVID-19

Published: Apr. 29, 2020 at 3:42 PM EDT
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Across the state COVID-19 has school districts getting creative and re-thinking their end of the year celebrations like high school graduations.

In Harrison County where the first case was reported school was shutdown sooner than other areas and it's been hard on students, teachers and staff.

With in-person instruction suspended, school leaders say they are trying to bring some normalcy to students looking to celebrate a major milestone when life is anything but normal.

Car lines are a usual sight at most schools in Harrison County, but the one that formed Tuesday morning was special.

With a greeting of "we miss you," Assistant Principal Jenny Nichols is left to love on her students from a distance.

Nichols feels a connection to all of her students, especially the ones pulling up on this morning, seniors about to graduate.

"It's been incredibly hard, I get a little choked up when I think about it because we've seen these kids grow up," said Jenny Nichols.

Graduation in Harrison Co. has always been a big night no matter the year, but the class of 2020 will be very different.

Thinking outside the box because of COVID-19 concerns the students this year were asked to pick up their cap and gown via drive-thru.

For students, getting their diploma will also be a new, each student will report individually to do their own commencement walk.

"They are going to come in with four household family members and they are going to come across the stage, they are going to get a picture with the diploma cover," said Nichols.

The school system had to submit their plan to the state for approval, it's not how they would have wanted it, but students we talked to understand like Senior Class President, Anna Midden.

"I'm so grateful for everyone in the school system and everything they have done, they are working so hard to give us something very special," said Anna Midden.

It's not just graduation that took some re-thinking, but prom has a virtual feel this year too.

"We are just going to do prom as you are," said Carman Ratliff, Project Grad Coordinator.

The school partnered with the local radio station WCYN for its help.

"We are going to play some music over the radio, my one worry was a lot of kids these days may not even know what a radio is so, but we have an App," said Trent Harris, WCYN General Manager.

As the station manager spins the tunes students are encouraged to share pictures online all dressed up from home.

It's just another the way this school system and county has adapted, despite COVID-19 changing everything.

"We just want these kids to have some kind of normalcy, this is not a normal time for anybody and what we are trying to do is make the best of it," said Ratliff.

The school will also record each student and put a video together with all of the graduates for them to keep of their commencement walk.