Graduation is still on


Robbinsville seniors will walk July 18


Robbinsville – The recent directive by Gov. Roy Cooper – for North Carolina to remain in Phase Two of COVID-19 re-opening protocol – had Graham County seniors fearing the worst.

Under Phase Two, mass gatherings are limited to 25 people outdoors and 10 indoors. Cooper extended Phase Two until Friday, July 17 last week and added a new requirements for masks to be worn at any location where social distancing was not possible, except for at home or in a vehicle.

But after weighing the decision in closed session for nearly two hours Tuesday morning, the Graham County Board of Education opted to proceed with a “limited” commencement exercise Saturday, July 18, at the Robbinsville High School football stadium. 

Eight tickets will be distributed to each family. Masks will be required for spectators and temperature checks will be performed at each entrance. Hand-sanitizer stations will also be set up throughout the stadium.

Public pleas

Robbinsville High valedictorian Karlyn Matheson and senior class student body president Colby Lovin both addressed the board during the public comment period, in an attempt to convince members to vote in favor of the commencement.

“I want you all to take the time to think about when you were in grade school. Do you remember how excited you were to start middle school, and then to begin your freshman year?,” Matheson asked. “How about your senior year? Do you remember your last basketball or football game? I bet some of you might even still have a picture from your senior prom.

“You had those last memories when you were in high school. My classmates and I were completely robbed of our last three months of high school, which are supposed to be the most fun. This year’s seniors had no idea their last day of school would be March 13.”

“If you look around town, you can see people in the Ingles parking lot. If you look on social media, you can see them going on vacations and playing travel ball,” Lovin reasoned. “How can we let all this activity go on, and not let 96 students have graduation? 

“We have worked our butts off for four years to pass classes and obtain a degree. We’ve all looked forward to the moment we get to walk across the stage, in front of our friends and family. Taking away graduation from us would destroy our hearts and spirit. We’ve worked too hard to be denied a graduation ceremony.”

Robbinsville High School principal David Matheson spoke to the board about safety concerns surrounding graduation.

“Myself and assistant principal Erica Sawyer have measured the stadium,” David said. “We can sit 81 families on the home side and 30 families on the visitor side, and practice social distancing. I have spoken with faculty and they are willing to work the gates and the stands. 

“I really feel like this is something we can do.”

New teachers

After coming out of closed session, the board also approved the following hires for the 2020-21 school year:

* Megan Williams, CTE teacher at Robbinsville High School

* Colby White, math teacher at Robbinsville High School

* Michelle Phillip, band director at Robbinsville Middle and High schools

* Madison Bellinger and Brooke Bailey, teacher assistants at Robbinsville Elementary Schools

Other news and notes

* The board unanimously approved the only bid on a 2000 Dodge Ram truck, which was awarded to Travis Hooper for $1,500. Three buses that were put out for bid did not receive any interest from the public.

* A revision to the school calendar passed 5-0, thanks to a new state mandate. Graham County Schools will now have five remote-learning days on its 2020-21 calendar.