Pickens High School 2020 Graduation Plans
Parents and Students Provide Input


Pickens High School 2020 Graduation Plans

5/1/2020 ~ by Destini Shope, Director of Community Engagement and Public Relations | Pickens County School District

“The Pickens High School Class of 2020 deserves recognition for their hard work and effort, and we are committed to honoring this milestone in their high school career,” stated Dr. Rick Townsend, Superintendent of schools for Pickens County.

PHS principal, Chris Wallace, along with school stakeholders, has been working diligently to develop a plan to celebrate PHS seniors. “It is important for students and their families to have an opportunity to provide input into this decision. The final plan is a great blend of a virtual ceremony now and a traditional ceremony later, in accordance with the survey data,” shared Mr. Wallace.

The virtual ceremony will be filmed over several days and will include traditional speeches by class officers, Valedictorian, and Salutatorian. Together with the graduate receiving their diplomas and speeches, a complete high-quality graduation video will be produced by Ellijay Telephone Company (ETC), who have agreed to handle the filming process.

Students will officially graduate as planned on May 22nd and the graduation ceremony will be aired on ETC Channel 3 and Channel 403 on Friday, May 29th at 7:00 p.m. The ceremony will also be available on the district’s YouTube channel (PCBOEGA) as well as on the high school and district Facebook pages. Each graduate will also be provided with a copy of the graduation video.

Families will be able to be in attendance as their graduate receives their diploma and photography services will be available as well. Pickens High School will be providing a registration link to families so they can select a time slot that works best with their schedule. Multiple weekday appointments and a full day of appointments on Saturday will be available. Graduates will be allowed to bring up to 10 guests to celebrate with them.

Additionally, school administration will be providing a document to answer the many questions of seniors and their families. This document will be sent out later today to all PHS senior families through Infinite Campus as well as being posted on the school’s website.

While honoring our Class of 2020 graduates, we will be diligent in following health and safety guidelines to protect all in attendance during this event. A variety of precautions will be taken including temperature screenings upon entry to the school for all individuals as well as maintaining social distancing.

It is the district’s desire to hold a traditional graduation ceremony at Dragon Stadium later with a date yet to be determined. The virtual graduation is a new process for all of us and we ask that you have patience with our volunteers and staff who will be on-hand during the filming of this event.

The 2020 graduates of Pickens High School have many things to celebrate at this moment in their lives, especially the opportunities that lie before them such as a new career, military service, college, or even a little extra time for those who need to decide their next step in life. The past 13 years have been used to build a strong foundation of knowledge and skills, gain a variety of experiences, and learn to face challenges with style, grace, and perseverance. Their ability to adapt and be flexible has never been more important than now. It is a life skill that will be exercised at many times throughout their lives.

As a school district, we are grateful to be able to provide a virtual graduation ceremony and encourage all 2020 graduates to join their classmates for this moment of remembrance and celebration.

Congratulations Pickens High School Class of 2020. Job well done!



Dear Class of 2020,

Over the last three years, I have had the privilege to learn a great deal about you and your classmates while serving as your principal. During this time, evidence of the many talents and gifts you possess have been on display and witnessed by many. It has been a true honor for me to have been given the opportunity to see and recognize the many accomplishments that your class has accumulated. In addition to being very talented and gifted young women and men, you have also shown that you are motivated, determined and equipped to take on anything that lies ahead of you.

Like you, I am deeply saddened that your last day in our school took place on March 13th. I want you to know that the legacy you leave will last long beyond this date. You should feel very good about the mark and positive impact you are leaving on Pickens High School. During this time of uncertainty and disappointment, I want to encourage you to keep a positive outlook. This pandemic has interrupted your year, but it has not overshadowed your accomplishments. As a unified class, you will overcome this interruption and be closer to each other as a result. I encourage you to be optimistic and look forward to the journey that lies ahead of you. Please know that I have confidence and faith in your ability to persevere through this, as well as any other challenges that you may face in the future.

Many hours of discussion and planning have gone into determining how to recognize and honor you. I am grateful for the many people who have given input and have assisted me throughout this time. While there are no manuals or guidelines on how to successfully recognize a senior class during a pandemic, we felt that the right thing to do was to ask and listen to the input from you and your parents/guardians. My sole goal throughout this process has been to determine a way to safely provide a celebration that you and your families will enjoy while working within the gathering limitations that have been placed upon us.

With this said, our hope and prayer is to have the opportunity to provide an in-person, traditional graduation ceremony in our stadium at a later date. You have earned the right to experience that event. In the meantime, I am asking you to please participate in the virtual ceremony that has been planned on your behalf. Even if we are able to provide an in-person ceremony at a later time, this will be a special event that you will be glad that you participated in. Your classmates, parents/guardians, and the entire PHS Staff will all appreciate you being a part of this event.

The Virtual Graduation Ceremony will consist of the same components that a typical graduation would contain. Speeches by your Class President, Valedictorian, Salutatorian, address from a staff member of PHS (that you as a class will choose), presentation and playing of the Class of 2020 song (chosen by you as a class), moving of your tassels, you receiving your diploma from our Superintendent, etc. These events will all be filmed in our PAC, edited and produced into a complete film that will be shown on May 29th, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. Every graduate will have the opportunity to be filmed receiving their diploma by choosing a time slot that works for you. A SignUpGenius form has been created to allow you to pick your slot. This form will be available on Monday, May 4th at 12:00 p.m. You will be able to bring up to 10 people to celebrate this moment with you. This process will take only a few minutes of your time to complete, but will create a lifetime of memories for you, your family and your classmates. Thank you for attending.

Please refer to the Fact Sheet/Frequently Asked Questions document that has been created. Hopefully, it will be helpful to you and your family as questions arise. Please email me at chriswallace@pickenscountyschools.org if you need assistance or have a question that is not answered through these documents. A detailed timeline to assist you with tracking the times that events will be taking place over the next few weeks is being finalized and will be provided to you. I look forward to seeing each of you soon.

Take care and stay well!

Chris Wallace



Who? Pickens High School Class of 2020

What? Virtual Graduation Ceremony

When? May 29th, 2020 at 7:00 p.m.

Where? On ETC3, Pickens BOE Facebook, Pickens BOE YouTube Channel
Why? Our Class of 2020 Graduates deserve to be honored. While we cannot gather for a traditional ceremony at this moment, the hope is that we get to do so at a later date. This virtual ceremony provides a way to celebrate each graduate now, while not leaving out anyone who may miss a later scheduled ceremony.

What is a “Virtual Ceremony”?
The idea of a virtual ceremony is to capture the essence of a traditional ceremony through video and pictures. Each graduate will have the opportunity to schedule a time slot (over several days) to capture graduates receiving their diplomas. Once filming is done by ETC (Ellijay Telephone Company), they will be engineering/editing and producing a high quality video that will be shown on May 29th, 2020 at 7 p.m.

Can my family be there to share in this moment?
Yes. You may bring up to 10 family members to see you receive your diploma during the filming process. Please have your entire party present and ready to enter 5-10 minutes prior to your appointment time slot.

Why is this not taking place on May 22nd, the original date of Graduation?
The graduation date and the date on the diploma will remain May 22nd, 2020. To provide adequate time to plan and prepare for a ceremony like this, it takes time, resources and expertise. Most notably, we need the expertise of ETC to make a quality production that our graduates and their families will be proud of. They have a prior commitment to another school for the May 22nd date, so we had to work with their team to ensure we had adequate time to film and edit this event for viewing. Additionally, time was taken to discuss options with 12th Grade Class Officers, School Advisory Representatives, the PHS Leadership Team, and to gather survey data from both graduating seniors and their parents/guardians prior to making a decision.

Will I get my actual diploma on this day?
We will plan to distribute diplomas as soon as possible, but we will need to film the virtual ceremony prior to senior credits being confirmed. This process must be completed prior to us distributing diplomas. For filming, you will receive your diploma cover, just as we do in a normal graduation ceremony.

How can my family and I view this event?
Cable: ETC3. Internet: Pickens BOE Facebook Page and Pickens BOE YouTube Channel.

What days will be available for me to be filmed receiving my diploma?
You will have the opportunity to schedule a time slot on the following days:
Tuesday, May 12th from 3:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Wednesday, May 13th from 3:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Friday, May 15th from 3:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 16th from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

How do we sign up for an appointment?
A SignUpGenius page has been created to allow you to pick a time slot that meets your needs and schedule. There are weekday and weekend time slots available. This link will be sent to all seniors through their campus email on Monday, May 4th at 12:00 p.m.

Where do we report to once on campus to begin this process?
The entry point will be at the New Gym. Someone at the Welcome Center will greet and direct you and your guests. After parking in front of the New Gym area, you will be directed when/where to enter the registration and pre-screening. We ask that you arrive 5-10 minutes prior to your appointment time.

Will the graduates get a copy of this ceremony?
Yes. ETC has been generous enough to offer each graduate a thumb drive containing this ceremony in a digital format that they can view and have at no charge.

How will this be done to keep everyone safe and in line with DPH and CDC recommended safety guidelines?
The health of you, your family members and our staff is our number one priority. You and your family will first enter a pre-screening area when you arrive. Your name and all guests’ names will be registered by an employee and a nurse will be on hand to administer a temporal temperature scan to make sure that we are not bringing anyone into this environment with a fever. For the health, safety and well-being of everyone, any graduate or guest with flu-like symptoms and/or a fever of 100.4 or greater will not be allowed into the filming area. Cleaning will be taking place after each graduate and their families leave the filming area, restrooms, picture station, pre-screening area, etc.

Can I wear a mask and/or other personal protective equipment (PPE) during this process?
Yes. If you and/or your guests feel more comfortable with wearing PPE during this process and your time on our campus, that is of course your right to do so.

What if my family and I have a transportation issue that prevents us from participating?
We will provide a way for you to be transported to campus and ensure that you get to participate. Please email chriswallace@pickenscountyschools.org if you need assistance in this area.

Will there be an opportunity for cap and gown pictures to be taken at this event?
We will have a photo station and photographer set-up to take your cap and gown picture. Packages will be available for purchase. You will also be provided an 8”x12” portrait free of charge. This will be our gift to you from the administration of Pickens High School.

Why should we (me and my family) participate?
This event is for you and your families, but is also for your classmates. If you do not participate, you, your family and your classmates will all miss out on the opportunity to capture a memory. There are members of the Class of 2020 who will not get to participate in a later scheduled ceremony due to commitments (military, other career commitments, early admission to college, college athletes who report early, etc.). We encourage you to make every effort to attend and participate in this virtual ceremony. You, your family, your classmates and the PHS staff will all be glad that you did!