North Forrest High School’s 47 graduating seniors will have an opportunity for a traditional graduation ceremony, with social distancing and other health guidelines in place to comply with regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commencement ceremony, which was postponed from its original date, will be held at 8 p.m. May 28 at the high school. Officials had considered holding the event on the football field, but after heeding parameters set by the Mississippi State Department of Health and the Mississippi Department of Education, decided to host a drive-in ceremony.
“We’re going to have a stage in the parking lot of North Forrest High School, and the graduates are going to walk across and get their diplomas,” said Brian Freeman, superintendent of the Forrest County School District. “We’ll have a normal graduation, and the parents will be in their car in the parking lot – they will not be allowed to get out of the car, but they will actually be able to see the graduation ceremony.
“The only people who will be out are the graduates and our school personnel; that’s it.”
The event is by invitation only, and each graduate will be allowed to invite two cars. All guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control will be followed, such as temperature checks, masks and hand sanitizers.
School police will be on hand during the ceremony to enforce all regulations.
“We only have 47 graduates, which makes it a little easier,” Freeman said. “We’re going to separate those into two groups – one on one side of the stage and one on the other.
“We’re going to try to park the parents where they can get the best sight of their child. We’re certainly going to follow CDC guidelines.”
Plans for graduation were finalized after a Zoom meeting between parents and North Forrest High School principal Jennifer Rials.
“Fortunately, it’s probably one of the smaller graduation classes we’ve had at North Forrest in quite a while, which helps,” Freeman said. “And the fact that we do have a large enough parking lot to do this, and we can still follow the guidance set forth by the Health Department and CDC, but yet still give our graduates a ceremony that they will feel like, down the road, that they’re very proud of.
“And the fact that we went above and beyond to try to give this to them, so we’re excited about it. Our graduates seem to be excited about it, because they’re getting some kind of closure and not having to wait throughout the entire summer to have to do that.”
In addition to the graduation ceremony, the high school held a drive-up Senior Night ceremony last week, with students receiving awards from a safe distance and a senior video shown on an outdoor screen. This year’s seniors have been offered a total of $2.8 million in scholarships, which is the largest amount ever awarded at North Forrest High School.