MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Just weeks before the ceremony, Reeltown High School in Tallapoosa County was prepared to have a drive-thru graduation because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Then just weeks before the big day, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey released the amended safer at home order that allowed high schools in Alabama to have commencement ceremonies in a more traditional way.
Reeltown High School has been having graduation on the football field since 1989. A tradition Principal Tom Cochran said the school wanted to continue this year despite the setbacks.
“You wouldn’t want to get through 12 years of school with absolutely no accolades [or] slap on the back, nothing whatsoever,” said Cochran. “I think it’s also important for the community to have some normalcy. We’ve had too much that wasn’t normal over the past month, two months, so it gives a since of community and brings some normalcy to the children and it allows us to get out and about.”
Faculty agreed that so much had already been taken away from this years’ seniors.
“Their prom was taken from them. They missed those last few months when we teachers try to love on them and help them get scholarships and all those events like awards day,” said Senior Class Sponsor and English Teacher Stacey Monroe. “So, we really, really, really were determined that we were going to find a way for them to graduate together.”
Graduates were spread out on the field six feet apart. Parents and supporters were also divided onto both the home and visitors sides of the field. Diplomas were then presented to both sets of stands.
Reeltown seniors said regardless of the changes, they were glad to be able to come together one last time.
“We have always been such a close-knit group, especially the community,” said Valedictorian Ethan Dunn. “Everyone knows each other and helps each other and it just wouldn’t have been the same if it had ended and we hadn’t gotten the chance to like come together and say goodbye and it’s just a since of closure really.”
Reeltown High School had a total of 75 students in their 2020 graduating class. Eryn Wells and Ethan Dunn both graduated as the class’ valedictorians.
There were around 300 parents and supporters in the stands.