Hawkins school director hopeful that the state clears seniors for graduation

Jeff Bobo • Apr 7, 2020 at 5:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Director of Schools Matt Hixson said he would still like to hold public graduation ceremonies as usual in late May.

But in order to have graduation, you must have graduates, which may require state intervention in light of the COVID-19 school shutdown.

The Tennessee Board of Education announced a special called electronic meeting for Thursday to enact emergency rules governing K-12 graduation requirements for Tennessee’s high school seniors, as well as other necessary rule changes in response to the ongoing public health crisis.

Hixson recently spoke to the Times News about what he thinks that could mean for graduating seniors.

KTN: The seniors who aren't able to complete their last classes and take their finals, are they going to be cleared for graduation?

“In the latest version of the legislative packet that the state was looking at, they are looking to wave some of those end-of-year requirements that would put a damper on our seniors' ability to graduate. As long as those wavers go through, I feel confident that based on the number of days they have completed this year, we're able to issue end-of-the-year grades and graduate those students based on the amount of work they have done up to this point.”

KTN: That will be a big weight off their shoulders.

“Yes. The only disclaimer I would state is that the state Legislature is the only ones who can waive those requirements because those are statutes put in place by the Legislature. As long as that proceeds forward, I assume we will be in pretty decent shape.”

KTN: Would that hold true for non-graduating students who expect to be promoted to the next grade as well?

“The biggest priority is to figure out what to do with the graduates because they need those diplomas to enter college and the workforce and in some cases the military, so we want to make sure that's squared away. But every grade would have to see a waiver for end-of-course credits.”

KTN: I understand that the requirements for the Work-Ready diplomas had been loosened to account for the school shutdowns?

“That's what I've heard as well. I saw waivers potentially in place for end-of-course credits, the finals, state testing and then those (Work-Ready diplomas) requirements as well.”

KTN: What about prom?

“Right now if I had to make a call I would advise against anybody making plans and spending a bunch of money on prom because No. 1 we may not be back in session, and No. 2 the recommendations against large group gatherings may still be in place.”

KTN: Does that go for the graduation ceremonies as well?

“We're very much hoping that we can return by graduation so that we can have those outdoor venues (football stadium) for large meetings available. We're typically outside at Volunteer and inside at Cherokee and then a smaller setting up at Clinch. I'm really hoping that we're able to return prior to graduation.”

KTN: Now that home deliveries of student lessons have been canceled, how will lesson distribution to students take place?

“We're sending out a week's worth of resources each time we email and make those available to students. We're hoping that electronic delivery of these packets will get us a couple more weeks down the road. Across the board I can't guarantee that. There are aggressive students who are already caught up on the topics that are out there, and they may not have lessons to last the next two weeks. But if the (Hawkins County emergency) declaration is lifted next Tuesday, we'll work on another batch as long as we need to to remain in contact with our students.”

KTN: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the public about this situation?

“I would really like to thank everybody for their patience. I know it’s really hard to deal with having students out of school, but it's the safest thing to do, and we're trying to maintain contact electronically and via phone as much as we can with our staff and students. I appreciate their input and feedback through this process, and I thank them for working with us.”

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