Some believe the Class of 2020 got a raw deal, with their long-awaited and traditional-filled send-off diminished by the social distancing brought on by efforts to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus. But Fort Payne City officials and Fort Payne High School Principal Brian Jett are making an effort to give this year’s seniors some pandemic-proof recognition and a sense of closure.

The Fort Payne City Council voted May 5 to contribute $6,000 toward printing yard signs. Council President Brian Baine said initially they talked putting the signs in the City Park, but Jett recommended displaying them around the high school instead.

“I felt like it was a nice gesture to do for our seniors so I’m glad everyone else on the city council was on board with it,” Baine said.

Public schools across Alabama were ordered closed in mid-March by Gov. Kay Ivey as a precaution to contain the spread of the virus, which meant that plans for traditional events like senior prom came to a sudden, screeching halt. On April 2, FPHS distributed the seniors’ graduation mortar boards and gowns so they could pose for casual photos wearing them.

“We are making progress, however, we are still unable to confidently schedule Class Night and a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 at this time,” Jett said. “We are hopeful that event restrictions will be lifted in the coming weeks, and we will be able to provide a positive end to the 2020 school year. It is my hope we can all come together as a class and celebrate class night and graduation. We are in the process of producing yard sign announcements to display and honor our graduates. Each sign will contain the student’s formal picture and first name only.”

Jett notified parents of FPHS seniors in an email and automated phone call on Thursday that they could opt out of having their child included in the display.

In-person classroom instruction is done for the year, and schools are using seniors’ grades in the previous term to determine their final academic record. Superintendent Jim Cunningham said the seniors would not be penalized due to the unprecedented circumstances, but any students who wanted to do remaining assignments to lift their final grade could do so. Virtual instruction has continued for students to finish out the school year.

Graduation ceremonies at FPHS were scheduled on the system calendar for May 21, 2020.

For anyone who has a question or concern, Jett said his office hours at FPHS are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

“We are here to help you with any questions that a student, community member or a parent/guardian may have,” he said.

For more information about Fort Payne’s plans, visit https://www.fpcsk12.com/.

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