Greenville County graduations: What to know before going to Bon Secours Wellness Arena
Greenville County Schools leaders have been planning high school graduations, which start this week at Bon Secours Wellness Arena, for the last two weeks.
This year's graduations will look drastically different. There will be no band or chorus performance, no processional, and everyone will be required to wear a mask.
"Everyone's human nature is to want to go up and give someone a hug or shake their hand or give them a high-five, and unfortunately, we've lived in a world for the past couple of months where we just haven't been able to do that," said Scott Rhymer, assistant superintendent for high school leadership. "We believe that our students will do the right thing by (adhering to) that social distance, as well as our guests. We also wanted to make sure that the normalcy of the walk across the stage was as close to what it could be had we not gone through this pandemic."
Graduates will sit spread apart on the arena's main floor and lower deck while guests will sit in the upper deck. Teachers and staff will not be seated in a special section like in previous years but will be ushering and collecting tickets.
Although the arena can seat about 15,000 people, graduates are limited to two guests to comply with guidelines from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Each student's two guests will be allowed to sit together and will be spaced four seats apart and two rows apart from other guests in attendance.
For Mauldin High School, the largest school in Greenville County, there are 565 graduating seniors and potentially 1,130 guests in attendance along with about 70 school employees to help run the ceremony.
Though the send-off isn't what's typical, Rhymer said seniors will at least have something to tell their children and grandchildren about.
"While the immediacy of this may be 'what you lost this spring,' I think time will tell a different story, and you'll think about all the unique things that you went through as a senior that really no other senior prior to you went through — and hopefully no other senior goes through in the future, as well," Rhymer said.
Greenville County Schools will only have two ceremonies each day — one at 9 a.m. and one at 5 p.m. — to allow time for district staff to clean the arena after each event. Bain Stewart, coordinator of building services, said staff will wipe down doorknobs and railings, clean the bathrooms and spray surfaces with a cleaning solution by using an electrostatic sprayer.
"The custodians are a dedicated force," Stewart said. "They're in there every day setting the stage so these kids can come in and learn, and they miss the kids."
Here's what else students and guests should know:
- Graduates should arrive 90 minutes before the ceremonies start.
- All guests will be required to wear masks or facial coverings such as scarves in order to enter the arena. Greenville County Schools will provide masks for students and staff.
- Everyone entering the arena will have their temperatures checked. Anyone with a body temperature above 100.4 degrees will not be allowed inside.
- Families will not be allowed to congregate inside or outside of the arena before or after the ceremonies.
- Graduates will enter the arena through the loading dock entrance and will be stationed six feet apart.
- Graduates must wear their masks until they are seated. They will be allowed to take them off briefly when they walk across the stage for photos.
- Social-distancing guidelines will be enforced for everyone on the arena's campus, and guests will be required to sit in the seats they received tickets for.
- Guests will be required to remain seated unless using the restroom.
Ariel Gilreath is a watchdog reporter focusing on education and family issues with The Greenville News and Independent Mail. Contact her at email@example.com and on Twitter @ArielGilreath.