We lined up in the warm gym, waiting in the alphabetical order we knew by heart. We scanned the crowded bleachers for familiar faces, including the permitted three we knew best. And though my only role was to walk across a stage and accept my diploma, my palms stayed anxiously damp.
That day was more than a few years ago, and most of the memories are faded like Polaroids, but I remember those sweaty hands. And I remember the overwhelming feelings of joy, gratitude, and hope.
For hope, as we learned in high school English class, was a thing with feathers, eternally springing, flying with swallow’s wings. And that day it also was a thing with a cap and gown, springing across the gym floor, flying into the future.
I can’t truly know the heartbreak our seniors’ parents feel. I stepped across each of my milestones, as did my two children, who enjoyed all of the pomp and circumstance of a traditional CCSD senior year. But I know this: we will do our best, together as a community, to celebrate them.
We have reserved the auditorium of First Baptist Church of Woodstock to host ceremonies on this schedule: Thursday, July 23, 4 p.m. River Ridge HS and 8 p.m. Woodstock HS; Friday, July 24, 4 p.m. Cherokee HS and 8 p.m. Sequoyah HS; and Saturday, July 25, 9 a.m. Creekview HS and 1 p.m. Etowah HS.
While a final decision will be made by July 1, the tentative plan is for our graduating seniors, as we have in years past, to invite all family and friends to attend. We will celebrate in the spacious, air-conditioned auditorium where guests will hear our top students’ speeches and watch our seniors march across a beautiful stage. Should it be necessary to make adjustments to continue social distancing, such as limiting attendance, we’ll make an announcement by July 1. Should it not be feasible to hold ceremonies in person due to continuing health and safety concerns, we’ll announce by July 1 plans to host a virtual ceremony.
What our community does to celebrate our graduates does not need to be limited to our CCSD ceremonies. Among my favorite grad season sights are the banners at neighborhood entrances recognizing their seniors. I’m sure over the next several months that we will see neighborhoods and businesses pool their creativity and resources to show their #CCSDfam spirit and support our graduates.
Hope leads me in all that I do. It’s in my heart at all times, and it’s my helmet during challenges like what we face today. I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
The loss of every milestone for every student in this season is heartbreaking, but my hope for our students – from our little preschoolers to our accomplished Class of 2020 – is infinite.
Thank you for everything,
Dr. Brian V. Hightower
Superintendent of Schools
UPDATES: A plan for picking up students’ belongings, yearbooks, photos, etc. is being developed and will be shared by your child’s Principal, as will updates on any refunds. Instead of email, we will mail ES, MS and HS report cards after May 22. Summer events: Summer Discovery enrichment camp has been cancelled, refunds will be issued; elementary summer school and the middle school bridge program have been cancelled; high school summer school will be held online June 3-23, with course recovery classes in core academics, as well as initial credit classes for health/personal fitness (registration and payment will be online May 1-22; we will share the website address soon). Our #CCSDserves (http://bit.ly/CCSDserves) to-go meal program continues through May 18; there will be no service May 25; we’ll resume the week of June 1 with an adjusted schedule. Do you need to enroll a kindergartner for next year? Do you have new neighbors who need to enroll all their kids? More information about 2020-21 enrollment is on our website at https://bit.ly/CCSDenroll The U.S. Census Bureau has asked us to encourage participation in its count underway, as the data is important for education funding; more information is at https://2020census.gov/ (in Spanish at https://2020census.gov/es.html).