CCHS readies for graduation amid ‘new normal’

Published 10:03 am Friday, May 8, 2020

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Crisp County High School’s leadership team is working to solve the logistics of holding a graduation ceremony in the midst of a viral pandemic that has taken the lives of 1,351 Georgians and counting.

Principal Rusty Sowell said the high school will have a graduation ceremony for its 2020 graduates, but that it must follow the law in doing so. Rumors that there will be no CCHS graduation ceremony this year are false.

“We want to honor our graduates as much as possible, but we have to follow the rules we’ve been given,” Sowell said.

In the meantime, a group of teachers, students and their families, civic clubs, and businesses have had signs printed with each graduate’s senior photo and lined the front entrance to the high school with the signs.

“A teacher came to us with this idea and immediately we thought, ‘yes let’s do this’,” Sowell said.

There are 277 graduates in Crisp County High’s Class of 2020. Of those 277, 66 are honor graduates – the highest number of honor graduates during Sowell’s tenure at CCHS.

Sowell, who was also a finalist for Georgia’s Principal of the Year, says the credit goes to his faculty, staff, and students.

“When things get tough, it’s amazing how people come together. Everybody is pulling their weight and then some,” Sowell said, noting that teachers reacted quickly and proactively when it became evident that in-class instruction would not resume this year.

“The teachers have been team players since the beginning, and they’ve kept their relationships with their students going throughout this ordeal. Our teachers are in weekly – and in some cases daily – contact with students either by phone or on the computer, but they still miss the students and the classroom,” said CCHS Assistant Principal Leah Slimp.

“We were able to migrate our courses from the classroom to online in literally 48 hours,” added CCHS Instructional Coach Tara Peavy-Shurley. “Our teachers have done a phenomenal job of being there for the students, even though they can’t be in the classroom together, and they have been there for their kids at all hours of the day and night, including the weekends, to work with them emotionally as well as academically.”

Sowell said there are a number of unsung heroes who have gone above and beyond the call of duty outside of the instructional programs at the high school, too.

“It’s amazing what has gone on behind the scenes. Our custodians and support staff? You can’t thank them or praise them enough,” Sowell said. “Our health and occupation teachers were here everyday screening employees for COVID. They didn’t have to do that, but we asked and they answered the call.”

The Cordele Dispatch will follow up on this story once CCHS’s 2020 graduation plans, including a date, have been formalized.