BY BOBBY BRYANT
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATIONS: The Darlington County School District, determined to give seniors some type of graduation ceremony despite the coronavirus threat, has boiled down their options to two possible scenarios, county Education Superintendent Tim Newman told students and parents April 24 in a video chat on Facebook.
One option is a “virtual” graduation that would be live-streamed via the Internet, he said. The district would shoot video of “every senior, walking across the stage, receiving their diploma, in their cap and gown, and having some words about their awards and activities they participated in,” Newman said. Valedictorians and salutatorians would be able to make a speech. The time frame for this would likely be June.
The other option, Newman said, would be “an in-person, live graduation.” That could not happen as early as June, he said, but might be possible by August. If state officials agree, he said, the district might be able to assemble seniors in “a large arena or a football field … and conduct a live graduation.”
The district also is considering putting out a tabloid-size publication with photos of all graduating seniors in the county. This “tab” would be given to students, families and might be distributed in local newspapers, Newman said.
On other issues, Newman said proms are still a question mark. He said he still hoped high schools can hold proms, “even if it’s in the middle of the summer.” Fall sports are also uncertain; summer workouts and conditioning for fall athletics are on hold for now.
FMU GRADUATION: Over Francis Marion University’s 50-year history, every graduating class has received degrees at a formal ceremony. The coronavirus outbreak isn’t going to end that streak, officials said.
FMU President Fred Carter says university officials are planning a special ceremony for the spring class of 2020. The event will replace the original May 9 commencement, which was canceled because of the governor’s executive orders closing public colleges and universities.
Carter said current plans envision a ceremony in late summer or early fall. Outdoor venues are under consideration, and special attention will be given to seating that will allow graduates and their guests to practice social distancing.
THE VIRUS VS. NURSING HOMES: To better define the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic within South Carolina nursing homes and similar facilities, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is going to provide regular updates on those facilities that have an associated case of COVID-19, as well as the number of positive cases for either residents or staff members.
DHEC plans to start providing the number of COVID-19-related deaths associated with these facilities as well.
WHEN WILL PARKS REOPEN? State parks tentatively plan to reopen May 1, officials said. But group facilities, like picnic shelters and community buildings, will remain closed.
Visitor gathering places like interpretive centers and park offices will remain closed initially or will operate on a limited scale. And each state park will only allow a limited number of visitors. State park visitor centers are to reopen May 11, and feature proper signage, physical indicators and barriers in place to ensure the safety of staff and visitors.