Most district and university graduations in north Alabama to be in-person this month


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Graduation season continues this weekend as graduates are set to receive diplomas during a pandemic once more.

But since the pandemic, the decision of even planning them has caused uncertainty.

One outlet of hope for students and their families across north Alabama can be simply having them outdoors, as the CDC recommends.

“In order to do that, we had to have a venue that was large enough for our graduates to be together and graduate at the same time,” Madison City Schools Assistant Superintendent Eric Terrell said.

When families are sitting together for graduation commencements outdoors, masks will be optional, but social distancing will be mandatory. This will be easy in the stands at Louis Crews Stadium, usually the home of Alabama A&M Football, planning to host both high schools for Madison City Schools May 17.

“I think it does bring a different feel,” Terrell said. “When you look up and see how big the stands are, you know, and you see everybody cheering for you to go across. So it’s a different atmosphere, but I think it’ll be a great atmosphere.”

But in The Shoals, the University of North Alabama again tabbed Norton Auditorium as its site this weekend, which will have eight indoor ceremonies in total, with masks required.

“The same protocols as we used last year are still in place now,” UNA Communications Director Michelle Eubanks said.

One glaring exception in the Tennessee Valley this spring is The University of Alabama in Huntsville, keeping its plan of another virtual spring commencement, despite a petition with over 500 online signatures.

Eubanks said UNA had an obligation to make its students happy.

“They can know that their accomplishment is not only celebrated, but it is done safely and it is done in a way that they can be proud to know that their institution, that they worked so hard to get that degree, is responding in this way,” Eubanks said.

Oakwood University’s graduation is planned for May 8 at Propst Arena, while Northwest-Shoals Community College will host its ceremony May 15 on campus in-person as well.

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