Magnolia High School holds its traditional graduation exercise at Panther Arena.

Normally this time of year, high school and college seniors are anticipating walking across the stage to receive a handshake and a diploma.

But lingering concerns about the safety of large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic are making local high schools and Southern Arkansas University push back ceremonies which are typically in May.

Magnolia School District Superintendent John Ward said considerations are being made for a July graduation, but the date has not been determined yet.

“We are also having a conversation about what we could do virtually, but the kids overwhelmingly said they wanted a traditional graduation ceremony,” he said.

Ward said if some sort of virtual graduation is held, this would not be in place of the typical graduation as 90 percent of students surveyed said that’s what they wanted.

Traditionally high school graduations for Magnolia High School are held in Panther Arena, but it is too early to know if this would be allowable or not, Ward said.

Graduation dates have been set for the Emerson-Taylor-Bradley School District. Superintendent Gary Hines said the dates the district has set have been the result of what was approved by the Arkansas Department of Education, which said no graduations could be held until after July 1.

“Our patrons have indicated to me that the vast majority preferred a traditional graduation rather than a modified virtual type or the graduation drive by’s,” he said. “Parents of seniors didn’t want that. I have been in contact with the commissioner and deputy commissioner about whether we could schedule a traditional graduation.”

Hines said he agreed with students and parents that a traditional graduation is an important and he understood why they wanted to wait and have one.

“This is one of the most memorable things that a person will have is a high school graduation,” Hines said. “We want students to think back on their graduation.”

Graduation for the district are as follows:

Bradley High School 7 p.m., Thursday, July 2 at the Bradley High School gym.

Emerson High School, 7 p.m. Friday, July 3 at Emerson High School gym. If there is a conflict with students and an FFA convention, Emerson’s graduation will be moved to 7 p.m. Monday, July 6.

Taylor High School, 3 p.m. Sunday, July 5 at the Taylor High School gym.

Columbia Christian School Superintendent Ted Waller said the school is still considering when to hold graduation and will not decide until May 15.

Southern Arkansas University’s May graduation has been moved to August 7-8.

Graduation schedule is as follows for Friday, August 7 at W.T. Watson Athletic Center:

11 a.m. College of Liberal & Performing Arts

2 p.m. College of Education

5 p.m. School of Graduate Studies

Saturday, August 8 at W.T. Watson Athletic Center

11 a.m. College of Science and Engineering

2 p.m. Department of Nursing

5 p.m. Rankin College of Business

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