As Maryville High School prepares for the area’s first graduation ceremony amid the COVID-19 pandemic tonight, (May 29), it has eased earlier guidelines for seniors and guests to wear masks.

Graduates and their guests still will have temperatures checked when they arrive for the 7:30 p.m. ceremony at the football field, and no one with a temperature above 100.4 degrees will be permitted to enter, according to information sent to families Thursday, May 28.

Two weeks ago Maryville told graduates they would need to wear an N95 face mask that will be provided before and during the ceremony, removing it only when they crossed the stage to receive their diploma.

The new guidelines encourage seniors to wear masks while they are lined up beforehand on a floor that has been marked at intervals with masking tape. However, the message continues, “Because social distancing will be maintained throughout the evening, we are not requiring students to wear their masks during the ceremony.”

Guests, limited to four per graduate, will be provided with a mask if they don’t have one and are asked to wear it until they are seated. “Once you are seated, you are encouraged, but not required to wear your mask,” the new guidelines say.

“We did not really have any outcry about wearing a mask or not wearing a mask,” Maryville City Schools Director Mike Winstead said during an interview following a school board meeting late Thursday, May 28.

The graduation committee took into account the expected temperature, about 80 degrees, and health guidelines giving the option to have social distancing or a mask, he explained.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its webpage “About Cloth Face Coverings” does say: “CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

On the same page in a section explaining that people who don’t have symptoms can spread the disease, it says, “That’s why it’s important for everyone to practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people) and wear cloth face coverings in public settings.”

The committee decided that it was reasonable to give people masks when they enter but allow them to remove the mask once they are seated. “If they’re following orders they’ll always be 6 feet distance,” Winstead said.

“I feel we have a very good plan,” he said.

Several elements of the ceremony will be different, with no alphabetical order for the graduates, no live music and no handshake. Two seniors will give speeches.

The graduates will line up as they arrive and receive a card with their name. As they proceed to the stage, they will place the card down for chorus teacher Byron Davis to read. They will pick up their diplomas from a table with retiring MHS Principal Greg Roach standing nearby for a photo.

The Maryville Class of 2020 has about 360 graduates, and Winstead said about 25 have notified the school they are choosing not to attend the ceremony. However, he said, Maryville has made arrangements for some to have photos taken on the graduation stage this morning, May 29.

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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(2) comments

Alf98

Let's do some numbers: 360 amazing seniors (congrats!) each accompanied with 3 or 4 family/friends, to which we could add teachers, staff, helpers, etc, may bring together 1500 individuals to the MHS stadium. During the past week or so, each one could have inadvertently been exposed (oops, I left my mask at home, etc), to 10 other people. The probability of having been exposed to a positive COVID-19 case is now increasingly alarming. Sure, we can wear our own masks tonight, hoping that those not wearing masks will not speak loudly, nor cough, and then we'll hope for the best. But why not all participate and minimize everyone's risks? Yes, not only your own, and others at the stadium, but by extension, everyone you may encounter in the next week or so. Thank you.

Hal

Anyone who thinks wearing a mask for a couple of hours is a terrible imposition should talk to a healthcare worker.

Can our educators not lead by example under the circumstances? MHS, please help normalize risk-reducing and socially responsible behaviors. Contact tracing with a crowd that size would be impossible.

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