All school districts in Morgan County plan graduation ceremonies

Marian Accardi, The Decatur Daily, Ala.
·4 min read

Mar. 3—A year after the pandemic canceled proms and put graduation ceremonies in limbo, all public school systems in Morgan, Lawrence and Limestone counties plan to hold graduations in May and many will allow proms as early as this month.

Decatur City Schools is developing plans for proms and high school graduation ceremonies this spring, but no dates have been finalized, according to Deputy Superintendent Dwight Satterfield.

"We're moving ahead to have them, but we don't have the dates yet," Satterfield said. "We'll announce those closer to the time. We're talking about May for both events" for Austin and Decatur high schools.

Satterfield said he has met with principals and sponsors from both schools on the scheduling.

"(Graduation) will have some modifications to it," he said. "We're trying to keep it as normal as possible."

Decatur City Schools, Morgan County Schools and Hartselle City Schools all announced in late March last year that proms had been canceled. Systems didn't know whether graduations would be possible until early May when the state health order was relaxed and state Superintendent Eric Mackey said the ceremonies could be an exception to his previously imposed ban on school-related activities until after June 5.

Last year, the Austin High commencement was at the school's stadium May 21 and Decatur High's commencement was May 22 at 7 p.m. in Ogle Stadium. DCS Superintendent Michael Douglas initially announced Decatur High's graduation ceremony would start at 9 a.m. May 21, but moved the time to the next evening at the request of the seniors.

Morgan County Schools Superintendent Robert Elliott Jr. confirmed that all five high schools in his system have canceled their proms this year, an individual decision for each school.

Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for May 24 at 7:30 p.m. for Brewer and West Morgan high schools, and May 25 at 7:30 p.m. for Danville, Falkville and Priceville high schools, according to the district's calendar.

"Each school held their graduation ceremonies as scheduled" last year, said district spokesperson Lisa Screws. "All were held on the school's football field."

"Barring any last-minute development, we expect to follow that same process again this spring," she said.

Last year, an area was provided at the stadiums for families and guests of each student to sit together in one space, with those sections marked and separated by at least 6 feet from each other, but Screws said school officials aren't sure about those details yet.

Hartselle City Schools

Hartselle High Principal Brad Cooper said the 2021 graduation will be May 17 at 7 p.m. at J.P. Cain Stadium.

"We hope it will be as normal as possible," Cooper said. "We also want it to be as safe as possible. Obviously safety is our No. 1 concern."

He said the school is waiting for information from the Alabama Department of Public Health on what restrictions will be in place due to COVID-19 at the time of graduation before making a final decision on how many people will be allowed to attend.

The prom will be April 30 from 7:30-11 p.m. at Ingalls Harbor's pavilion.

"We're only allowing juniors and seniors at Hartselle High School" to attend, he said. "There will be no lead-outs."

At Hartselle High's graduation last year, 15 sets of bleachers were added to the stadium to create enough space for social distancing.

Limestone County Schools

The graduation schedule for Limestone County Schools is:

May 21, 11 a.m.: Alabama Connections, University of Montevallo.

May 25: Clements, 5 p.m.; West Limestone, 7 p.m.

May 27: Elkmont, 5 p.m.; Ardmore, 7 p.m.

May 28: Tanner, 5 p.m.; East Limestone, 7 p.m.

"As far as restrictions or changes, we will be looking at that the closer we get to graduation," said Ashley Graves, the district's spokesperson.

She said the decision on prom is usually left up to each individual school.

Athens City Schools

Athens High School Principal Willie Moore said the school's prom will be March 20 and graduation will be May 20 at the stadium, weather permitting.

"We will continue to follow the appropriate social distancing guidelines at all future events," Moore said. "We may have to limit seating for graduation and allocate a designated number of tickets for each graduating senior. That will be determined at a later date."

Lawrence County Schools

Graduations will be May 27 for Hatton and East Lawrence high schools and May 28 for Lawrence County High and R.A. Hubbard. Proms are now scheduled for April 17 for East Lawrence, March 26 for Hatton, April 17 for R.A. Hubbard and March 19 for Lawrence County High.

marian.accardi@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2438. Twitter @DD_MAccardi.