Cherokee Grad 4

Cherokee County High School graduations will look much different than in this 2017 file photo because of the need for precautions to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus.

Graduation ceremonies for 2020 graduates of Cherokee County's high schools are expected to take place later this month with coronavirus safety measures in place, according to school Superintendent Brian Hightower.

Graduations usually take place in May at the end of the school year at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, but because of the novel coronavirus pandemic ceremonies have been delayed. In a message on Saturday, Hightower announced school system officials have worked with the church on a plan to host ceremonies with two guests per graduate, along with physical distancing throughout the auditorium.

"We are extremely grateful that the Church, as always, displayed a 'we are here to serve' attitude as we worked together to improve this year’s graduation for our students while continuing to meet health and safety guidelines," Hightower wrote in a message on the school system website.

Graduates will receive additional details about their ceremony later via email from their principals, Hightower wrote. A tentative schedule announced by the school system is: 

- River Ridge High School, 4 p.m. July 23

- Woodstock High Sschool, 8 p.m.  July 23

- Cherokee High School, 4 p.m., July 24

- Sequoyah High School, 8 p.m. July 24

- Creekview High School, 9 a.m. July 25

- Etowah High School, 1 p.m. July 25

All ceremonies are at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, 11905 Ga. Highway 92. The video of each ceremony will be streamed online at www.fbcw.org for those who cannot attend.

"Allowing up to two guests per graduating senior will require specific additional safety measures. We know we can count on your cooperation if you plan to attend your child’s commencement ceremony," Hightower wrote.

The safety measures outlined by Hightower include:

- Students will be seated in a designated area and social distanced;

- Guests will be seated by ushers and social distanced;

- As usual, guests will not be permitted to stand in aisles or near the stage to take photos. "We will, as we do every year, have a professional photographer stationed by the stage taking photos of each student," Hightower wrote;

- Signs will instruct guests about protocol to follow about use of restrooms;

- Guests will need to practice safe distancing - at least 6 feet apart - in the parking lot, halls and lobby while at the church.

A decision on mandatory use of face coverings will be made and announced later, school officials said in a website post.

The pandemic forced the closure of school buildings starting in March and through the end of the school year, while spring sports and other gatherings were canceled. 

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, there have been 1,460 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in Cherokee County and 44 deaths attributed to COVID-19, the disease cause by the virus. 

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