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Pickens High plans virtual graduation, hopes to hold in-person ceremony later

“This pandemic has interrupted your year, but it has not overshadowed your accomplishments,” PHS principal tells seniors


school news

Blake Moss / Photo

Most students spend their entire school career dreaming of their senior prom, and many do their dress and suit shopping months prior to the date of prom itself. One couple, PHS seniors Shannon Johnson and Zak Price, still had their photo shoot and spent the day together, but with extra precautions of course. Now school administrators are working to salvage graduation plans and say prom is not totally off the table for discussion.


The Pickens High School Class of 2020 will have a virtual ceremony broadcast on Friday, May 29th, a week after the originally-scheduled graduation. Additionally, PHS Principal Chris Wallace 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.”

A survey to graduates and parents found both preferred a virtual ceremony now with the hope of getting an in-person ceremony later, Wallace said. The approximately 300 seniors of the Class of 2020  began signing up Monday for individual time slots next week for their ceremony. At their appointed times, graduates who choose to participate will walk across the

stage in the Performing Arts Center and receive their diploma cover from the school superintendent. Each graduate may bring up to 10 people with them.

Ellijay Telephone Company representatives will film all graduates who participate then edit and produce a film that will be broadcast May 29th at 7 p.m. 

“I really hope this is honoring the seniors as best we can,” Wallace said in an interview Monday. “We want them to know we support them. Graduation is a big deal. It’s a big event and they’ve earned it.” 

Speeches by the class president CJ Streicher; valedictorian Colby James; salutatorian Nathan Hamilton and staff graduation speaker, teacher Wil Nix, will be a part of the filmed ceremony. In addition, it will also include the presentation and playing of the Class of 2020 song, “I Lived” by One Republic.

School officials will take precautions for health and safety and all who attend the virtual graduation will be pre-screened in the gymnasium before entering the PAC. Cleaning will take place after each graduate and their families leave the filming area. “And of course we won’t be shaking hands,” Wallace said.

Cap and gown photos will be taken for each graduate at their virtual ceremony. Packages will be available for purchase but graduates will be given an 8X12” portrait free of charge as a gift from the administration of Pickens High School.

In his letter to graduates, Principal Wallace said he was “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.”

Wallace also encouraged members of the Class of 2020 to keep a positive outlook during this time of “uncertainty and disappointment.”

“This pandemic has interrupted your year, but it has not overshadowed your accomplishments,” Wallace wrote. “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.”

ETC will provide each graduate a thumb drive containing the ceremony in a digital format at no charge.

For anyone who may need help with transportation to be included in the virtual graduation, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .