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ASHLAND -- Ashland City School District will not forego an in-person graduation ceremony for the class of 2020. 

Instead the district has worked closely with the Ashland County Health Department to develop a safe, socially-distant celebration, according to a letter from Superintendent Doug Marrah and Ashland High School principal Josh Packard.

"The past three months have been difficult for our senior class, and although they are certainly not what our seniors envisioned for their last semester of high school, we are committed to celebrating them as their time at Ashland High School comes to a close," they said in the letter. 

The senior class will be honored first with a parade Saturday, May 23 and then with an outdoor commencement ceremony likely the following Saturday, May 30, weather-permitting. For the commencement, the class of approximately 260 students will be spilt into two groups for two separate ceremonies, allowing adequate social distancing can be maintained.

The event will require assigned parking and seating at Community Stadium for each graduate and potentially four guests.  

All graduates and families must wear a mask from the time they enter the stadium until they leave. If a graduate does not have a mask, a basic one will be provided for them, but family members are responsible for bringing their own masks. 

"Requiring people to wear masks, that was something our health commissioner strongly suggested, and we didn't want to be in a position of being at odds with her, so we said, if that makes you more comfortable then we'll have the people coming to the commencement wear a mask," said Superintendent Marrah at a board of education meeting Monday, May 18.

Additionally, anyone who attends is required to sign a waiver and present it upon entry. Graduates should enter at the same time as their family members.

Individuals who do not adhere to the procedures below and all directives from administrators will be asked to leave the premises. Social distancing will be monitored and enforced, Marrah said. 

The ceremony is expected to last about 45 minutes. It will feature speakers, and then graduates will process forward -- slowly, still distanced -- to receive their diplomas.

The graduate will have their picture taken afterwards, and then both the student and their guests are asked to leave through the same gate they entered. 

Those exhibiting any COVID-19 related symptoms are asked to not attend the graduation ceremony.  Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, loss of taste or smell, gastrointestinal disorders, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and conjunctivitis.

Online viewing is available for those who can't attend in-person. This information will be posted online and publicized via email and phone calls before the ceremony.

Graduates who choose to opt out of the traditional ceremony will be able to pick up their diplomas beginning Tuesday, June 2 at Ashland Middle School between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

"Although we  acknowledge that neither of these plans (splitting the class in half or allowing students to pick up diplomas later) are ideal, please know that we are working to provide the best possible experience for your graduate while simultaneously allowing every family to make a decision that fits their personal comfort level," Marrah and Packard said in the letter to families. 

Graduation is to be held Saturday, May 30. The first session will begin at 10 a.m. and the second at noon.

If weather doesn't allow for the morning sessions, then the ceremonies will be held at 2 and 4 p.m. or 6 and 8 p.m. respectively. 

If the ceremonies must be pushed to another day, they could be held Sunday, May 31 at 2 and 4 p.m. or Monday, June 1 at 6 and 8 p.m.

Other alternative options include dates in June, July and early August. 

Dates and information could change due to statewide orders or local health department guidance at any time. 

parade route

The celebratory parade for the AHS class of 2020 is set to kickoff at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 23.

The parade will start in the Ashland High School student parking lot and end at the intersection of College, King, and Claremont, at which point cars should disperse. 

Spectators should plan to socially distance themselves along the route. No spectators will be allowed in the front high school parking lot.

To safely arrange the beginning of the parade, seniors are asked to enter the front student parking lot and follow the directions of administrators as far as how to park and line up. 

Once on school property, students must stay in the vehicle at all times. Students also may not ride outside the vehicle during the parade.

For more information and the most updated details, visit the AHS senior information website

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