Graduation in limbo

  • Progress photo by Brittany Sullivan Jade Patterson receives her Class of 2020 T-shirt from HHS art teacher Ellen Englemann
    Progress photo by Brittany Sullivan Jade Patterson receives her Class of 2020 T-shirt from HHS art teacher Ellen Englemann

It is likely the year 2020 will never be forgotten by anyone old enough to remember, especially those whose graduation ceremony hopes are on hold. Hayesville High School graduates are feeling the uncertainty.

One member of the Hayesville High Class of 2020, Katherine Davis, may have spoken what many of her classmates were feeling. “This senior year has been one of the worst in history,” she said this week.

HHS senior Mark Cothren feels the melancholy. “This year has definitely been weird and I’m actually disappointed I didn’t get to finish my senior year at school,” he said. “When we were still in school, I kept thinking, ‘man, I wish school was over already.’ Now I find myself wishing I was still in high school.”

Graduation may not be traditional, but decisions are still being made, according to Hayesville High School Principal Jim Saltz. A school leadership team is surveying seniors to allow them to make the decision.

“Not a day goes by that we are not networking with other school districts, our public health director, Stephanie Johnson and Sheriff Bobby Deese.

Seniors are being given three options, but all options will depend on what phase of reopening the state is in,” he explained. “The first option would be a virtual graduation, fully recorded and streamed. Second, we would have graduation with limited attendance to maintain social distancing. The third option is to delay graduation until all limitations are lifted, possibly late July, early August or even in the fall.”

At this time, a virtual Baccalaureate with Pastor Kirk Hatherly, will be posted May 29, which was when graduation was originally scheduled. An awards ceremony will be posted May 28. These will be on the Facebook page, as well as the Clay County Schools website.

Clay Schools Superintendent Dale Cole added, “For my part, I will say that it has been my position all along that, if possible, we want to have a normal, traditional graduation for our seniors. Any time limit we put on it is self-imposed as there are no rules we must follow. We could have a full graduation in December if we felt that was best for our seniors. With that said, the longer we wait, more of our seniors will have moved on to the military, jobs out of state, etc. and would not be able to participate with their class- mates. I know people want to rush everything and try to put a date and process down in stone for graduation, but these are special times. I want to recognize Mr. Saltz for involving the senior class officers in this decision. It is their graduation and they deserve input on how it takes place.”

Both men said next week’s school board meeting will have more information responded to surveys by then. That meeting will be broadcast via Facebook Live at 6 p.m. Monday, May 18. In the meantime, he shared what is happening at school.

In order to provide some normalcy, students picked up their yearbooks, along with their caps and gowns on Monday this week. The school was also having Spirit Week, with themes each day. Since students are not on campus, they were encouraged to share photos appropriate to the themes including Nature Day, Pet Day, Hobby Day, Celebrity Day and Black and Gold day to end the week. Visit Hayesville High School’s Facebook page to see pictures submitted, as well as a yearbook day release video.

Saltz also wanted to express his thanks. “I just want to say how great this community is and how special Clay County is,” he smiled. “The sheriff’s office bought signs for all of the seniors and they are lining the road into the school for everyone to see. Some community members got together and bought banners to go on the Hayesville Square with all the seniors’ pictures on it. Deese, Johnson and the local government have been supportive. They are helping us make the most of it.”

The community spirit and senior Bryce Buckner’s sentiments may be what helps all of them get through this. “ I think this is a weird time for everyone, but hey, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”