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'We did it' | Knox County seniors hopeful about new graduation plan

Knox County Schools said it will now hold in-person graduations with limited guests. However, it will come with some safety guidelines.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Life for students in schools systems around the world has drastically changed. For seniors specifically graduation will also look a little different. 

"I'm so excited and so relieved we get to spend this amazing time with our families," Fulton High School senior Callie Anderson said.

This comes after several seniors pitched a different graduation plan and made a video asking the district to reconsider. Anderson was one of those students.

"I never thought in a million years my voice would be hear," she said. 

After community feedback and a meeting with Mayor Glenn Jacobs, Knox County Schools moved its ceremonies to June and will allow a limited number of guests. On Wednesday WBIR asked the health department whether or not it approved the plan. 

"I'm going to be honest I haven't seen it but they make thoughtful decisions and want to protect their families,"  Director Martha Buchanan said. 

She went on to say the department gave the district guidance and the system received guidance from the Tennessee Department of Education.

We also asked Knox County Schools whether or not it shared the plan with the health department. Spokesperson Carly Harrington responded:

"We shared our updated graduation plan with Mayor Jacobs and he fully supported it.

We know that some guests may not feel comfortable attending, but we will still be live-streaming and recording these events. For those who attend, the expectation will be that they follow physical distancing, wear a mask and other precautionary guidelines."

The graduation plan was announced during a Knox County Board of Education meeting on Wednesday. Superintendent Bob Thomas said he spoke to Mayor Glenn Jacobs that morning. That same day the mayor released a statement on Facebook as well.

 “Our meeting with Superintendent Thomas, school leadership and Commissioner Justin Biggs went very well. I feel comfortable with the direction of our discussion and with the ideas that were presented,” said Mayor Jacobs. “Under this plan, Knox County Schools can strike a balance between taking public safety precautions and ensuring that students and their families are able to celebrate their achievements together.”

 “I am pleased that our 2020 graduates will be able to have something special to close their scholastic careers, even if these extenuating circumstances require it to be different than what they expected and what’s been done before. There’s a lot more involved in these ceremonies than a student getting a paper diploma and turning their tassel. Graduation is a time for students—some of whom will be the first in their families to achieve the honor—to revel in the culmination of more than a decade of work.”

For Nahomy Limon this new change tugs at her heart.

"Estoy muy emocionada de que clase 2020 se ha mantenido muy fuerte y unida a pesar de todos los obstáculos," she said. 

It also makes her proud that her parents will be proud too.

"They do this so we can go to college and do things that they couldn't do," she said. 

Though the circumstances aren't ideal South Doyle High School's Lindsey Sterky said there is a glimmer of hope.

"But the fact that we get to have our support system at least get to watch us makes a difference," she said. 

Riley Holden feels that way too. She is graduating from Hardin Valley.

"To know that my immediate family at least could be there made me feel better about the whole situation," she said. 

Though the plan could change seniors said they are hopeful.

"You can achieve anything you put your mind to," Austin-East senior Aaliyah Riddle said.

Even in a time where much is uncertain, together they are confident about three things.

"Class of 2020... we are strong, we are resilient and we are overcoming," Hardin Valley student body president Brock Mullins said. 

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