Fort Smith Public Schools Shares Graduation Plan Update

For Immediate Release:
June 22, 2020

Contact: Christina Williams, Coordinator of Public Information

Fort Smith Public Schools Shares Graduation Plan Update

Fort Smith, AR, June 22, 2020 – Fort Smith Public Schools continues to plan for safe graduation
ceremonies and is providing an update to graduating seniors and their families in light of current circumstances.

Graduation Updates Timeline
● On March 23, FSPS shared on its COVID-19 Updates Page that graduation might be
postponed because of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings.
● On March 25, FSPS sent a Graduation survey via text message to seniors. Those who
responded said they preferred to participate in some kind of traditional graduation ceremony and did not want to have a virtual graduation ceremony.
● On April 10, FSPS provided potential dates for a traditional graduation experience. These
dates were June 29 and June 30, with reserved dates of July 6 and July 7 in the event the
ceremony dates needed to be moved again.
● On May 7, FSPS received guidance from DESE and ADH that the district would not be
able to host any form of traditional ceremony before July 1. FSPS cancelled the June 29
and 30 dates and moved forward with plans for the July 6 and July 7 graduation option.
● On June 15, FSPS sent a second Graduation survey via text message to seniors to
understand how many plan to participate in the late graduation ceremonies. 77% of
Southside respondents and 80% of Northside respondents said they will participate in
graduation ceremonies regardless of time, location and order of ceremony.
Dr. Rathbun, Northside High School Principal, Dr. Miller, Southside High School Principal, and
Dr. McDonald, FSPS Director of Secondary Education, have been working on a number of options. Last week, FSPS outlined some of the difficulties with on-field graduation ceremonies.  Considering these factors, graduation ceremonies at the Convention Center may be one of the most viable options. Drs. Miller, Rathbun and McDonald are working with the Convention Center representatives to organize a beautiful and memorable event for the Northside and Southside Classes of 2020 while adhering to the strict physical distancing guidelines.
Here are a few details regarding this proposal:
● Graduates may sign up for a specific hour to participate in their respective ceremony.
● Families may accompany their graduates through the graduation line.
● The event begins as the graduate and family enter the Convention Center at the South
Rotunda. Each graduate and family member will be screened upon entry and then move
as a group through the convention hallways.
● The graduation ceremony in progress in the North Rotunda and graduation speakers will
be broadcast to televisions spaced along the hallways.
● Families may visit with one another as long as physical distance is maintained among the
different groups.
● Activities for graduates and their families will be set up along the way.
● Once the graduate and family arrive in the North Rotunda, the family will be invited to
observe as their graduate walks across the stage to receive a well-earned diploma from
the principal, the superintendent and the school board.
● A professional photographer will be set up to capture these graduation highlights, so
that families do not have to do so.
This plan is approved by the Arkansas Department of Health and the Division of Elementary and
Secondary Education for FSPS. However, the district is waiting on word of a final approval that
must be submitted by the Fort Smith Convention Center. Other plans may be submitted.

July 6 and 7 are only a few days away. As a result, it appears appropriate to postpone graduations again. Another set of make-up dates can be selected once more options are examined and  documented in more detail. The district has reserved July 16-17, August 10-11, and December 17-18 with the Fort Smith Convention Center for this purpose. It is also possible that FSPS could host graduation at the Convention Center sometime in July and provide a more-traditional option at the schools in the future.

Fort Smith Public Schools will continue to advise seniors and their families as details and plans
solidify. We thank our seniors for their continued support and patience, and look forward to
celebrating with them soon.

About Fort Smith Public Schools
From unmanned aerial systems programming to unforgettable kindergarten trips to the farm,
Fort Smith Public Schools provides incredible opportunities and strong instruction for each of
the almost 15,000 students in its 19 neighborhood elementary schools, four junior high schools,
two senior high schools, one alternative learning center and one adult education center. With
nationally recognized schools, students, educators and organizations, Fort Smith Public Schools
are always the best choice. For information, visit