Hardin County School’s made a change on April 23 to its previous high school graduation plans, which has been met with some criticism.

The school district originally was going to have the same graduation procession as last year, which included students, along with up to 10 family members viewing and taking pictures, walking across a stage to receive their diploma. The individual processions would then be edited into one videoand streamed online.

There also was plans to have a students-only ceremony, which included speeches during the school day.

Now, based on survey results collected from parents and seniors from each high school, the plans will be retained for Central Hardin and North Hardin High Schools. But John Hardin will conduct a more traditional graduation ceremony.

Katie Keary, parent of a Central Hardin senior, said she was surprised the school sent out a survey to parents and students since she thought they had not been asking for parents’ input throughout the past year. She said she also was surprised the survey had been sent out as soon as it was considering it was about four weeks out to the ceremony dates.

Keary said she is frustrated all high schools aren’t having traditional ceremonies since the state lifted some mandates April 19, allowing events that are around 1,000 people while still adhering to social distancing and a face mask requirement.

Keary said she thinks there is an inconsistency between the schools and if a traditional graduation ceremony could be done at John Hardin, then why not the others? She said when it came to hybrid scheduling and other mandates, these were consistent across the high schools.

John Wright, spokesman for the district, said when the original plans were made back in March, the district was going by the guidance given at the time in regards to events and gatherings.

When the guidance did change, Wright said the district decided to survey parents and seniors to see what they wanted, considering the fact some families already may have set up plans with family members to come for the originally scheduled activities.

Wright said all three of the high schools were given these opportunities for input since all three of those areas are different from one another.

“We could have just stayed the course and not said anything about it, but we knew that people had expressed concern to us,” he said.

Keary said the survey results in question, especially the parent results for Central Hardin, aren’t enough to make the decision to not do a traditional ceremony.

The results said 68.8 percent of the 170 Central Hardin parents surveyed wanted to stick with the original plans. These were the parents of the school’s 418 seniors who are graduating this year. Out of the 293 students that responded, 75.4 percent said they wanted the original plans.

Keary said she thinks students are not in the right state of mind because of the difficulties of the past year, and said seniors don’t necessarily understand the importance of it.

“I don’t think that kids with the year that they’ve had are the right decision makers for such a large event in their life,” she said.

Wright said the district wanted to get the input of seniors for graduation since they will be entering into their young adult lives soon, and that they deserve to have a say.

“It’s their ceremony. We wanted their input because it’s theirs. And we are a student-centered district,” Wright said.

John Hardin now will have fewer tickets for its ceremony than before. The ceremony is planned with limited capacity at 7 p.m. May 21 at Bulldog Stadium. Instead of 10 tickets, students will receive six tickets. Students will only receive four tickets if the ceremony needs to be moved inside.

Keary said she would like Central Hardin to have a traditional graduation, while still having the pre-scheduled times for students to walk across the stages with family members to get photographs.

Keary said she also feels that now, having been in the pandemic for more than a year, people know how to behave at events and within guidelines including social distancing.

If a traditional ceremony isn’t possible, she said it would be good to at least have parents be able to attend the Friday morning ceremony happening during school. Keary said she had reached out to school leaders about this, but was told she could not attend.

Shana Boyd, a senior at North Hardin High School, had approached the Hardin County Schools Board of Education in March with a petition signed by students asking for a more traditional graduation.

Boyd said she wanted to have a rain or shine, traditional graduation with a maximum amount of tickets. Boyd said she has many family members who she’d like to attend.

Since the change of plans, Boyd while she is still upset her class won’t be having the traditional graduation, she said she has a more positive outlook of the changes.

“A lot of seniors did choose the non-traditional anyways,” Boyd said.

Survey results for North Hardin said that out of the 265 seniors, 103 responded with 58.3 percent saying they’d like to keep the original plans. For parents, 171 responded with 52.6 voting for original.

In the past few graduation ceremonies, Boyd said they have been rained out and have had to be moved to the gym. If North Hardin had gone traditional this year, it would have had to adhere to more strict guidance of social distancing, meaning less tickets would be available for students.

Boyd said she would rather have the ceremony as is to allow her to bring in more family members than if the school switched to a traditional event.

“I’m OK with how things are turning out because at least they’re giving us more in return with the individual appointment times,” Boyd said.

Central Hardin and North Hardin will have seniors-only events May 20.

Seniors will receive appointment times to come to the school with 10 family members/friends and walk the stage to receive their diploma. Both will be live-streamed on HCEC-TV’s YouTube channel.

Andrew Harp can be reached at 270-505-1414 or aharp@thenewsenterprise.com.

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