RCHS Graduation

Previous RCHS graduates are pictured above in a Herald-News file photo. The Class of 2020 will receive their diplomas on Friday, May 29 at Eagle Stadium. 

Rhea County High School’s 2020 graduation ceremony will be held on Friday, May 29, at 7 p.m. at Eagle Stadium. The ceremony was approved by the Rhea County School Board on Thursday evening.

School officials have been discussing the possibility of safely having a graduation ceremony amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and on Thursday, school board officials voted to go ahead with graduation but with changes to increase safety

The entire stadium will be opened up to attendees, both home and visitor sides, in order to allow for greater social distancing. Rhea County Director of Schools Jerry Levengood said that students will also be seated six feet apart on the field.

“So, they will be socially distanced,” Levengood said. “Their safety is our No. 1 priority.”

School officials will also ask families to spread out throughout the stadium, and the Rhea County Sheriff’s Department will be on hand to make sure people stay off the fences in front of both the home and visitor stands. There will also be a large screen set up on the field broadcasting the ceremony.

Additionally, the graduation ceremony will be livestreamed on the school system’s YouTube account to allow those who do not want to attend the ceremony to watch it nonetheless.

“We would also encourage those with health conditions and the elderly to watch from home,” Levengood said.

Additionally graduates will be given tickets to allocate to family members wishing to attend the ceremony. School officials said they are expecting nearly 2,800 people in a stadium that can seat 9,000, and should the number of requested tickets exceed the predicted attendance, the number of tickets handed out may be limited.

New RCHS principal named

In other business on Thursday, the Rhea County School board announced the hiring of Scotty Herrell as the new Rhea County High School principal.

Herrell replaces longtime principal Jesse Messimer who announced earlier this year that he is stepping down as principal to accept a position at central office.

Herrell served as the assistant principal at Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and said he is looking forward to joining the Rhea County community.

“Rhea County is a community that believes in its students,” Herrell said. “We’re ready to get to work and continue the good work that Mr. Levengood and the school leadership at Rhea County High School have already done.”

Seven CTE students to train in California

Also on Thursday, RCHS Career and Technical Education Director Sheila Massengill announced that seven CTE students will be traveling to California to train with mechanical and industrial engineering company Woodmack Products Inc.

RCHS students Ethan Thurman, Bryce Gurley, Easton Garrison, Devon Shaver, Braden Jewell, Gabe Peck and Taylor Cowley will soon be traveling to California for two weeks of training before returning to work in Rhea County.

“They’re being recognized for their success in the classroom and in their field,” Massengill said. “They have all earned their industry certifications.”

Woodmack Products Inc. President Eric Griesmer praised the students, as well as the high school’s CTE program.

“I’m honored and humbled to see such a successful program,” he said. “I’m really impressed with these students.”

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