McAlester high school

McAlester High School.

McALESTER, Okla. — Graduation ceremony plans are set for McAlester Public Schools — at least for now.

MPS Board of Education members unanimously voted to approve rescheduling graduation to Saturday, June 6 with a location and time to be determined by Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Open Up Recover Safely Plan.

“I know I’ve had multiple parents reach out to me and they were very appreciative of the idea of us backing this up and trying to do a traditional graduation ceremony,” MPS Board President Vic Wheeler said. “I’ve even had some that said if we’re not able to have a traditional ceremony on June 6, then back it up to July 6.

“But I do appreciate the fact that we’re trying to be sympathetic to the desires of these kids whose senior year has really been changed in a way that I don’t think anyone could have expected,” Wheeler added.

Board members unanimously approved a motion that states graduation will be held June 6 — but the location and time will be determined later based on guidelines in the OURS plan.

MPS Superintendent Randy Hughes told board members the ceremony would start at 10 a.m. on June 6 at Hook Eales Stadium if the state enters the OURS Plan Phase 3 by that time.

Oklahoma is set to enter Phase 2 on Friday “once hospital and incident rates remain at a manageable level for 14 more days” after the first phase was enacted on May 1, according to the plan.

Phase 2 guidelines recommend continuing safer-at-home policies for anyone older than 65 or part of a vulnerable population, maintain social distancing, avoid socializing in groups, and consider resuming non-essential travel.

Other Phase 2 guidance includes: organized sports activities can resume, bars can operate, funerals and weddings can resume, and children’s nursery areas at places of worship can reopen — all under social distancing and sanitation protocols.

If hospital and incident rates remain manageable 14 days after Phase 2, Oklahoma will enter Phase 3 — which essentially lifts all restrictions.

Hughes told board members that State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister recommended schools wait to hold graduation ceremonies until after Phase 3 was enacted.

While the state is still under Phase 2, Hughes said MPS graduation plans will be as follows:

• limit each student to eight tickets

• place the stage in the middle of Hook Eales Stadium and facing south

• use stands on both sides of the field to fit in more people under social distancing guidelines

• if it rains, the ceremony would be moved to the next weekend

Hughes said if the state must return to Phase 1 guidelines, MPS has plans for a virtual graduation.

“We spent about four weeks planning on the drive-by virtual and then it was all changed,” Hughes said.

He said graduation plans under Phase 1 would include a virtual ceremony and students could have a drive-thru line on campus to pick up their diplomas.

Hughes said the virtual ceremony would be projected onto a screen provided by the city of McAlester and placed in front of the Lucy Smith Center so people could watch from the parking lot.

“That’s the last resort,” Hughes said.

Contact Adrian O’Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com

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