Once again, the Livingston Parish Class of 2020 was hit with a bombshell announcement.
The four high school graduation ceremonies scheduled for June 29 - July 2 have been modified due to the governor’s latest proclamation that limits the size of indoor crowds novel coronavirus pandemic, Superintendent Joe Murphy has announced.
Ceremonies for Springfield, Albany, Doyle, and French Settlement will now be held on Walker High’s football field. They were originally scheduled to take place inside Walker High’s gymnasium.
The changes will not impact the streaming and live telecasting of all ceremonies, and all ceremonies will begin at their previously scheduled times if weather allows.
Murphy announced the news Thursday night, shortly after Edwards signed his newest proclamation that keeps Louisiana under Phase Two for an additional 28 days, or until at least July 24.
The new order, which goes into effect June 26, leaves in place occupancy and other restrictions of the previous Phase Two order.
However, it also limits indoor gatherings to 250 people, which forced school officials to adjust the district’s remaining indoor graduation ceremonies to an outdoor format. Previously under Phase Two, venues were allowed to fill up to 50-percent of its capacity. That would’ve allowed Walker High a capacity of 1,100 people — 850 more than what is now allowed.
“While this is most unfortunate, we feel it is the most viable and least intrusive arrangement possible,” Murphy said in an email to principals Thursday.
Murphy advised schools to prepare for the possibility of inclement weather, asking principals to delay ceremonies “until a window of opportunity presents itself to commence and finish ceremonies.” Murphy said the district will be in constant communication with local meteorologists “to provide immediate weather updates.”
If the weather forces a change, ceremonies will be moved inside the Walker High gym, which will only be allowed to sit 250 at a time. Schools will then have to break down the overall ceremony into smaller ceremonies until all have graduated.
In an email, Murphy said he is “not ruling out other criteria used to adhere to the 250 limit on indoor gatherings.”
The change does not affect graduations for Denham Springs and Walker, which were already set to have ceremonies on their respective schools’ football fields.
Graduations for the Class of 2020 had been in flux since mid-March, when Edwards closed all school campuses statewide to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which hit Louisiana harder than all but a handful of states in the initial outbreak.
Over the next nine or so weeks, school districts across Louisiana and the rest of the country scrambled to come up with ways to honor their seniors, who had the last two months of their high school careers ripped away because of the new disease. Some schools organized parades in honor of their seniors, while others placed signs and posters around town.
And while some graduation ceremonies were relegated to a virtual format, Livingston Parish officials have been adamant from the beginning that they’d honor seniors “in a traditional format” after a trying four years.
This senior class dealt with the Great Flood of 2016 in its first semester of high school before dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in its last.
Graduation ceremonies have already been held for Holden, Live Oak, and Maurepas.
Earlier this week, Murphy said the school system is encouraging people to wear masks, though it will not be required. He did say, however, that all LPPS employees will be wearing masks in adherence to guidance from the Louisiana Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control.
Below is an updated schedule of the remaining graduations. More information can be obtained by contacting your school.
-- Denham Springs High: 8 p.m., June 26, Denham Springs High stadium
-- Walker High: 8 p.m., June 28, Walker High stadium
-- Springfield High: 6:30 p.m., June 29, Walker High stadium
-- Albany High: 6:30 p.m., June 30, Walker High stadium
-- Doyle High: 6:30 p.m., July 1, Walker High stadium
-- French Settlement High: 6:30 p.m., July 2, Walker High stadium