Photo by Sue WatsonRoy Lawson, superintendent of education for the Marshall County School District, talks with the board of supervisors.
Lawson presents graduation plans
Marshall County School District Superintendent Roy Lawson recently presented scenarios for graduation at the three campuses to the board of supervisors.
Graduation exercises were postponed from May while leaders waited to see which direction the COVID-19 pandemic is moving in the county.
In the June 1 meeting, Lawson said he wants to make sure "our people in the county have a say." He wants the sheriff, the mayors, and the board of supervisors on board for the dates set for each campus.
Both June and July graduation dates at Byhalia, Potts Camp and H.W. Byers are under consideration.
"We're going to limit each student to four tickets," he said.
But providing four tickets per student would put too many people in one space for safety from COVID-19 transmission.
Byhalia, the largest graduating class, has about 116 seniors so that would mean more than 500 people would have to be accommodated at an outdoors graduation exercise. Two separate ceremonies are being considered. Or, alternately, two tickets per graduate would reduce the crowd size.
At Potts Camp and H.W. Byers from 116 to 200 people would be the largest crowd to be situated on the football fields.
"I want all of us to be on board, if we are going to hold graduations,” Lawson said.
Those present would be asked to wear masks and use hand sanitizers and sit in areas marked off in the bleachers or in chairs, he said.
Immediately after the graduation, students would be asked to exit to the parking lot and leave campus as quickly as possible.
Lawson said he is trying to make the best arrangements for the students.
“We don’t want to be out on a limb,” he told supervisors. “We want all partners to work together.”
The school board will finalize graduation plans, most likely this week, and try to limit the crowd sizes and avert any disturbances, he said.
Graduation exercises dates proposed are next week – June 16 in Byhalia, June 18 in Potts Camp, and June 19 at H.W. Byers.
Alternate dates are set for July and even a virtual graduation on each campus is planned if the pandemic does not allow for traditional graduation exercises.
Lawson, who worked with Tishomingo County as assistant superintendent and director of curriculum and testing, was hired by the Marshall County School Board to replace outgoing superintendent Lela Hale, whose elected term expired in December 2019.
When he arrived Lawson said, “It’s going to be a unique transition, starting in the middle of the school year.”
Then soon thereafter Lawson is in the middle of a world-wide Coronavirus pandemic that is putting strains on public safety and changing the character of education in public schools, possibly increasing the use of remote, distance learning in the future. Graduation exercises are no exception this year to the pressures being put on school districts, institutions of higher learning, families and communities to honor traditions but also make way for change, if required, in how students are educated, possibly moving away from face-to-face instructional strategies.