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Fayette County will honor 2020 graduates

A musical light show tribute to the Class of 2020 in downtown Lexington and car parades at the Kentucky Horse Park are among the progressive celebration planned for public high school seniors who have missed milestones during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fayette schools officials announced Thursday night.

In-person classes in Kentucky schools have been canceled since mid-March and Gov. Andy Beshear has said that in the month of May, traditional in-person graduation ceremonies are not safe.

“Given that the class of 2020 has had a final semester of high school like none other, Fayette County Public Schools and several community partners are working together to ensure their graduation celebration is one-of-a-kind,” the school district news release said.  So far, seniors at all Fayette high schools and special programs have been honored with social media posts, website tributes, and individual deliveries of yard signs, officials said.

“We know this is not the senior year our students and their families expected,” Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk said in the news release. “But we want our seniors to know that we refuse to let COVID-19 keep us from celebrating their accomplishments and sending them off in style.”

In planned senior send-off parades, the light show, socially distant diploma distributions and a virtual graduation video, safety is the primary consideration. District officials said they are in close contact with state and local health officials to ensure every precaution is taken. District spokeswoman Lisa Defendall said more details will be released later, but the progressive celebration plans include the following:

On May 27, the last day of school, the school district is collaborating with City Center and iHeartRadio 104.5 The Cat to light up downtown with a musical light show tribute to the Class of 2020. District officials don’t want crowds to gather, but seniors can drive through downtown in a certain time period or watch virtually.

▪ On May 28 and 29, at the first-ever Fayette schools Senior Send-Off, seniors will have a chance to see their teachers and school staff members during a parade winding through the Kentucky Horse Park with audio entertainment provided by LM Communications, including Hits 106.3 and The Beat 107.9. High school seniors will remain in their cars and schools staffs, practicing social distancing, will be on the parade route. Each school will have its own time slot.

▪ During the first week of June, the district’s six large high schools will hold on-campus drive-through diploma distribution events for students and families. Schools will be providing details directly to seniors and their families.

▪ Graduation videos are also being assembled for each of the district’s six high schools, featuring customary commencement speeches, musical performances, pictures of each senior, the announcement of each student’s name, and other special traditions unique to each school. The virtual ceremonies will air in early June on the district’s education television station, which can be viewed on Spectrum Channel 197, Windstream Channel 13, and MetroNet Channel 2. District officials also working with iHeartRadio and KET to expand broadcast options for families.

“High school graduation is a milestone for every student and the Class of 2020 deserves every opportunity to be celebrated,” Caulk said.