Seniors receive academic awards during vehicle parade

  • Highlands seniors Kedra McCall, Jeslyn Head and Ryan Talbert receive their senior academic awards and yearbooks outside the school on Tuesday afternoon.
    Highlands seniors Kedra McCall, Jeslyn Head and Ryan Talbert receive their senior academic awards and yearbooks outside the school on Tuesday afternoon.
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Blue and yellow balloons hung from the roof supports around the circle at Highlands School on Tuesday night.

“Celebration,” by Kool and the Gang blared from a set of speakers.

Teachers and administrators lined the driveway with signs of encouragement and well wishes.

It wasn’t a traditional senior awards ceremony, but it was certainly historic as recognitions were handed out to members of the senior class in the comfort of their vehicles. The senior awards parade was a socially distanced solution to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Students were given their academic awards along with their yearbooks and a special Class of 2020 box of Krispy Kreme Donuts.

The parade happened one day after Macon County Public Schools officials announced that graduation for Highlands School will be pushed back to Saturday, Aug. 1.

“The administrators at Highlands polled the students and the solution that they came up with together was to hold some form of graduation on Aug. 1,” MCS Superintendent Chris Baldwin said on Monday. “Obviously, with all that is going on with the COVID-19 virus, everything is still open ended, but on or very near Aug. 1 is the plan.”

Highlands’ principal Brian Jetter noted that the format for graduation will depend on a number of factors and won’t be set in stone until late July.

“It could very possibly be the week before (Aug. 1) before we know exactly what we can and can’t do in terms of the actual ceremony,” Jetter said. “So much is dependent on what the state allows and what is in the best interest of the students and their families.”

The state of North Carolina is currently under an executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper, which limits gatherings to 10 people or less. Cooper could enact “phase two” of his plan to relax statewide restrictions as early as Friday, but there has been no word on what the limit on mass gatherings may be increased to.

Baldwin noted that Franklin High School seniors are being polled this week to find out what graduation option the students prefer of the three plans administrators drew up. Traditionally, Franklin graduates at the Ramsey Center at Western Carolina University, but that facility is not available and the large number of FHS students and family would likely be above any mass gathering limit set by the state.

Following Tuesday’s senior class awards parade, Highlands hosted a similar event for the lower grades on Wednesday afternoon. A vehicle parade to pass out athletic awards is scheduled for today at 6 p.m.