Officials from Atlanta Motor Speedway and Henry County Schools have joined together to make graduation for the Class of 2020 possible this summer.
With current social distancing guidelines in place for the health and safety of the public, Henry County Schools had no facilities capable of hosting graduates and their supporters. Atlanta Motor Speedway stepped in to help.
The grandest of accomplishments for Henry County Schools’ outgoing seniors will now be celebrated at the grandest of venues in the area.
“We are thankful to our friends at Atlanta Motor Speedway for their support of this idea and effort,” said Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis. “Once the pandemic hit and school was canceled, we committed to seniors that we would do everything we possibly could to honor, recognize, celebrate, and commemorate their accomplishment of graduation, and this is the best possible way to follow through on that promise.”
Speedway officials were happy to be able to support the efforts.
“We know how hard all the seniors have worked throughout their high school career,” said Brandon Hutchison, Executive Vice President of Atlanta Motor Speedway. “We are glad we can help them cross the finish line in these difficult times with a graduation ceremony befitting their hard work.”
Ceremonies will take place twice a day starting Monday, June 22, and finishing on Friday, June 26. One ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. and the other at 8 p.m. Seniors and their families have been shared details of the event and the various health and safety precautions, including temperature checks, clear bags for personal items, and social distancing designations that will be in place to ensure that this event is as safe as possible for all attendees.
The event will be a ticketed event and is not open to those without tickets distributed by graduates.
With Governor Kemp’s recent easing of restrictions on large-crowd gatherings, if social distancing can be ensured, district and speedway officials felt the space of racetrack allowed ample room to accommodate an increase in the number of tickets for guests as well as all graduates and officials taking part in the ceremonies. Plans were submitted for approval to health officials, and the green light was given to proceed.
Graduates will have the unique perspective of sitting on the infield of the track while being spaced six feet apart. Ticketed supporters of each graduate will be seated together in marked areas but six feet apart from other small groups of supporters. Masks are strongly encouraged for all in attendance, and anyone who is sick is asked not to attend for the health and safety of others.
“While the grandstands at the speedway are accustomed to hosting grand finales to exciting races, guests will get the chance to witness the grand finale for these seniors after what has been an exciting career in Henry County Schools,” said Board Chair Josh Hinton. “Being a resident of Hampton, I know this will be a big event for the area and I’m appreciative of our community partners at Atlanta Motor Speedway for helping seniors from across the county get this chance. This is another example of our county being better together.”
Those seniors and their families who do not feel comfortable with the traditional graduation plans or have health conditions that prevent gathering in public do have the option of an alternative private ceremony conducted at their school.
Like the many other events and attractions that are slowly opening across the state of Georgia, the plan to celebrate the Class of 2020 has been carefully and cautiously designed in coordination with the District 4 Public Health officials with adjustments and accommodations so as to limit contact and minimize risk for graduates and guests. Guests and participants in HCS graduation ceremonies are asked to do their part to limit contact and congregating onsite with other participants at the time of the event.
“We want this to be a memorable moment for our seniors and their families,” said Davis, “and we could not do this without the incredible team at Atlanta Motor Speedway working through all the logistics to help make this happen.”
No strangers to pulling off big events of all varieties, speedway officials note that this is the first time a graduation ceremony has been held using the infield and grandstand seating.
“We pride ourselves at Atlanta Motor Speedway on putting on extraordinary events and the graduation ceremonies will be no different,” said Hutchison. “We’ve hosted a lot of unique events at the Speedway over the years, but hosting graduations ceremonies will be a first.”