Sullivan high school graduations tentatively set for July 31, Aug. 1

Rick Wagner • May 8, 2020 at 6:09 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s Class of 2020 has spoken in a survey, and seniors chose traditional, in-person graduation ceremonies to be held at their high schools on either July 31 or Aug. 1 over an earlier but limited graduation.

School officials announced Friday afternoon they will abide by the survey results if health officials allow such events at that time, which will depend on the status of the novel coronavirus pandemic and any limitations on public gatherings.

In addition, a separate celebration at Bristol Motor Speedway will be held for each school, with details to come later.

“By a margin of 56% to 44%, Sullivan County’s 2020 seniors chose the option of a delayed, traditional graduation ceremony over the option of an in-person graduation experience that would be recorded and limit each graduate to a total of 10 total family members/guests,” a 5 p.m. Friday statement from Director of Schools David Cox said.

All told, he said that the survey got 387 responses out of 625 seniors in Sullivan County’s four high schools.

During Thursday’s school board meeting, member Mark Ireson said parents contacted him with concerns that the survey seemed slanted toward the “in-person” but partly virtual option because of information provided about state and national health concerns and the three phases of reopening regular activities.

However, Cox said a video from Sullivan County Regional Health Department Director Dr. Stephen May was included to give seniors facts upon which to base their choice. A school system official Thursday said a final decision and planning for the late graduations would have to start July 20.


“We plan to provide the traditional graduation ceremonies on July 31st and Aug. 1 at each of our high schools. In addition, we are working with Bristol Motor Speedway to plan separate and optional events by school for our seniors to ‘Cross the Finish Line,’ ” the statement said. Details, dates and times are coming in the near future and “will be announced as soon as possible,” the release said.

Cox said the BMS event likely would be in May or possibly early June.

“We are working with them (speedway official) right now,” Cox said in an interview when asked the dates for those events. “We just took a lot of care to get authentic input from our seniors.”


The planned graduation times and dates are 6 p.m., July 31 at Sullivan East High School; 8 p.m., July 31 at Sullivan Central; 6 p.m., Aug. 1 at Sullivan South; and 8 p.m., Aug. 1 at Sullivan North.

The release said the plans are subject to change based on updated guidance from the Sullivan County Regional Health Department as COVID-19 data becomes available.

“We are grateful to our principals and senior class leaders for their leadership, and to our 2020 seniors who participated in the survey. We look forward to celebrating safely with all of our seniors at graduation,” the announcement ended.


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