Beshear talks school opening; senior tribute weekend in Laurel

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – While more than 600 high school seniors in Laurel County wait for the exact dates and times for their revamped “graduation” walk-through this year, the celebration of their achievements begins in earnest this weekend.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday he still is working with school superintendents on when and how to start school in the fall. And a decision may not come for two to three weeks.

“We are continuing to tell superintendents to be flexible, have several options. We desperately want to get kids back in school in the fall,” Beshear said during his daily briefing.

“But it may be two or three weeks before we have enough information, enough to see how things are,” Beshear continued.

Yard signs and other tributes to graduates of North Laurel and South Laurel already are filling yards and drives across the county. This weekend, London’s SAM radio 103.9 will broadcast a three-hour tribute from 6-9 p.m. Friday. It will include achievements by the classes and individuals from both schools, messages from school administrators and even some of their favorite music.

Then, Saturday, seniors from each school will take part in parades, giving the community a chance to salute them coronavirus-style from a distance lining streets to pay homage along Main Street in London.

South Laurel graduates will assemble at the G. C. Garland Building behind London Elementary School, with the participants driving down Main Street at 10 a.m. to their school with a police escort.

North Laurel graduates will begin their route from the G. C. Garland Building along North Main Street to Hal Rogers Parkway to NLHS at 1 p.m.

The parade is restricted to graduating seniors only unless they are being driven by an immediate family member. Other family members are encouraged line the parade route.

North Laurel has 340 seniors while South Laurel has 294, according to the school district.

Meanwhile, the district still is working out a schedule for the new “graduate plus two” graduation format ordered by a judge. The plan calls for each senior, accompanied by two parents or other designees to attend a ceremony where they will receive their diploma walking across a stage so their family can witness the historic moment.

That is a change from the original plan the district proposed to have groups of 10 students receive their diplomas with the process video-taped and edited together and presented to each graduate. That was to have been done earlier this month but almost three dozen parents sued, winning a change that allowed family participation, over the school district’s objections.

In any case, social distancing and other health and safety guidelines under the coronavirus pandemic will be followed.

The school district has said the change will cost it more than $110,000 in extra staff time because teachers and others could have to work beyond the May 21 end of their contracts.

May 14 is the last scheduled day for students and grades have to be submitted May 15.

According to court records, Dr. Doug Bennett, the district’s school superintendent, has said the process likely would be carried out May 18-22 and possibly extend to May 26 — the day after Memorial Day — and the rest of that week. He’s even said it could take until June 1 or June 2.

Schedules are being finalized to be sent to families.

Some parents have said if graduates and parents are lined up properly using the 10 students per grouping format planned by the district initially, the process should be able to be done with three minutes per student. That would be 20 students an hour, which would be 30 hours total for the 600 graduates, the parents have theorized

That would be less than four days, they’ve said.

“I’m not real sure why they are saying it’s going to take so long. It’s basically the same process they were planning. You get everyone there, spread them out across the gym and start the walk through,” one parent told WTVQ ABC 36 News.

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