No traditional graduations in Arkansas before July 1

No traditional graduations in Arkansas before July 1
Citing continuing concerns over large crowds getting together for a graduation ceremony due to COVID-19, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state Education Secretary Johnny Key said Saturday that there will be no traditional high school graduations in the Natural State before July 1. (Source: Arkansas.gov)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - Citing continuing concerns over large crowds gathering for graduation ceremonies, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Johnny Key, secretary of education, said Saturday there will be no traditional high school graduations in the Natural State before July 1.

The two made the announcement during Saturday’s daily COVID-19 briefing at the state capitol as the number of cases neared 3,000 with 49 deaths.

Gov. Hutchinson also spoke about a two-day surge campaign to increase the number of people getting tests for COVID-19. The governor commended area residents, saying the numbers in Northeast Arkansas have gone from about 20 a day to 53 a day since the program began.

Hutchinson also recommended that anyone with symptoms needs to call their doctor and ask to be screened for the virus.

Graduation decision

Gov. Hutchinson said the decision on graduations is a tough one for families throughout the state, including his own, with a granddaughter set to graduate this year.

However, he said health and safety concerns made the decision.

Secretary Key, a Mountain Home native, said his office will be working with the Arkansas Department of Health to determine if the July 1 deadline can be modified in any way.

Several area districts, including Cross County, Paragould, Jonesboro and Greene County Tech, have announced plans to have non-traditional ceremonies to honor seniors this year.

Key said his office will be working with school districts, in reviewing requests for non-traditional graduations; and that he will be talking with superintendents in the next week or so on the issue.

In a related question, both Gov. Hutchinson and Key were asked about plans for the fall semester, as well as the process of closing schools earlier this year.

Key said education teams are looking at contingency plans and scenarios for the fall semester. However, Gov. Hutchinson said the goal for the state is to have a full school year.

On the closure this spring, Gov. Hutchinson also said state officials, including Key and Dr. Nate Smith with the Arkansas Department of Health, listened to superintendents while looking at safety and a goal of educating children.

The governor said the same process will be used this fall.

There was no daily briefing Sunday.

Watch Saturday’s update online here >>

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