Greenville County Schools to hold in-person graduations at arena despite coronavirus
High school seniors in Greenville County Schools will have graduations at Bon Secours Wellness Arena May 27-June 4, the district announced Thursday.
Despite the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, schools across the Upstate have planned for in-person graduation ceremonies, though the events will be different than in years past.
For Greenville County Schools, each graduate will be limited to two guests, and attendees will be subject to social-distancing guidelines, including assigned seats. Everyone in attendance will be required to wear personal protective equipment, according to district spokesperson Tim Waller.
The assigned seats will be determined on a lottery basis, with empty seats between guests who do not live in the same household.
Immediate reaction to the announcement online was mixed, with many parents applauding the district's decision to have in-person graduations while others expressed concerns over health risks.
Mauldin High School valedictorian Lindsey Skidmore was elated when she heard the news that she would get to walk across the commencement stage.
"When I heard that graduation was occurring in-person and that it was occurring practically on the original date, I was very excited. I expected graduation to occur in-person, but I did not expect that it would be so early," Skidmore said. "I was elated to know that I'd be able to physically walk across a stage and see my classmates and teachers again before college."
Skidmore said her parents are happy for her as well, but her sister is disappointed she will have to watch the ceremony via livestream.
The district announced its graduation ceremony guidelines in a written statement that said guests would be required to stay in their seats unless using the restroom.
The ceremonies will not include a processional, where graduates walk in lines to be seated, and the students will be required to wear protective equipment until they sit down.
Coronavirus updates in SC:Here's what you need to know
Waller said all guests, staff and students will be required to have temperature checks in order to participate, and anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees will not be allowed inside the venue. Families will not be allowed to congregate inside or outside the arena.
The district is providing hand sanitizer, gloves and masks for all students and staff assisting in the ceremonies. Waller said teachers and administrators can participate in the ceremonies as ushers, but they are not required to attend.
The district's 14 high schools were originally set to have commencement ceremonies June 1-3, split up between Furman University's Timmons Arena and the Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Waller said the district ended up choosing "The Well" for each graduation because of its size.
According to the Bon Secours Wellness Arena's website, the venue can seat up to 15,000 people.
"Given the size of Bon Secours Wellness Arena, the Greenville County School District is able to maintain social distancing guidelines, and the tradition of graduating at The Well will continue with the Class of 2020,” arena General Manager Beth Paul said in a released statement.
The ceremonies will take place at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to allow the district time to disinfect and clean in between each graduation and will be live-streamed for guests who are unable to attend.
Greenville County Schools graduation schedule:
Wednesday, May 27
► Fine Arts Center at 9 a.m.
Thursday, May 28
► 9 a.m. Southside High School
► 5 p.m. Greenville High School
Friday, May 29
► 9 a.m. Wade Hampton High School
► 5 p.m. J.L. Mann High School
Saturday, May 30
► 9 a.m. Riverside High School
► 5 p.m. Mauldin High School
Monday, June 1
► 9 a.m. Blue Ridge High School
► 5 p.m. Hillcrest High School
Tuesday, June 2
► 9 a.m. Eastside High School
► 5 p.m. Greer High School
Wednesday, June 3
► 9 a.m. Woodmont High School
► 5 p.m. Berea High School
Thursday, June 4
► 9 a.m. Travelers Rest High School
► 5 p.m. Carolina High School
Check back for more on this developing story.
Ariel Gilreath is a watchdog reporter focusing on education and family issues with The Greenville News and Independent Mail. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ArielGilreath.