Big Walnut plans in-person graduation ceremony as COVID-19 cases increase in Delaware County

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DELAWARE, Ohio (WCMH) — Delaware County has been classified as “Level 3” by the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, which means there is very high exposure and spread of COVID-19 in that county.

But despite being classified as level 3, Big Walnut High School is still preparing to have an in-person graduation ceremony for more than 300 seniors.

Graduating seniors will be allowed to have up to four guests, and the school has the guidelines in place for families.

Chairs line the football field spaced six feet apart and the staff, faculty, and families look forward to the opportunity to celebrate the seniors this weekend.

“I’m thrilled that they’re having some sort of ceremony because I think it’s important for the kids,” said parent Lori Kirkendall.

Kirkendall said this ceremony is what she always wanted for her son.

“My son went to the practice this morning. They have them all spaced out on the field, and they’re going to have special sections for families to sit in and we have to go together and leave together,” said Kirkendall.

There’s also staggered entry times to allow for maximum social distancing upon entry.

A drive-thru ceremony is also being offered to those who choose not to participate in the outdoor ceremony even though a majority of the seniors in the class have requested tickets and plan to attend.

“It sounds like they’ve put a lot of detail into it,” said Kirkendall.

Not all parents agree with the plan. They say the school is focused on pomp and circumstance instead of the health and safety of the kids and the community.

Delaware County’s Health Commissioner Shelia Hiddleson said she’s paying attention and has been in contact with the school about this graduation for weeks.

“I have told them I don’t recommend that they do an in-person graduation and that has been our recommendation all along,” said Hiddleson.

She said based on the broad guidelines from the state, there’s nothing she can do because it does not explicitly prevent gathering of 10 or more for specific industries and schools when they use properly practiced prevention measures. Graduations fall into the category of industries allowed to host such an event.

“Their plan is sound as far as applying all of the social distance rules,” said Hiddleson.

This gives Kirkendall one more thing to celebrate this evening.

“I’m very happy, very happy with the school.”

Health Commissioner Hiddleson said if she receives any call regarding the school not following the guidelines during the graduation, she will come and talk to the superintendent to see if she needs to shut it down.

Coronavirus in Ohio resources:

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