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Schools welcome graduations after uneasy year

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

After a school year filled with uncertainty over the Clayton County School System's accreditation crisis, more than 2,000 high school seniors are set to receive diplomas which carry the seals of two accrediting agencies.

On May 1, officials from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools announced that accreditation had been restored. When Clayton seniors get their diplomas, they will carry the seals of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC). The GAC granted its own accreditation to each of Clayton County's 60 schools last fall.

"I don't know what word I can use to describe how happy I am that our seniors will graduate from an accredited school system," said Assistant Superintendent of High Schools Derrick Manning, "but I'm sure whatever word I came up with would match the sentiments of our seniors and their parents, because of all the adversity these kids have faced this year, this is an incredible feeling."

Graduation ceremonies will be May 29 and 30, at the Georgia Dome, which is located at One Georgia Dome Drive, in Atlanta.

Manning said there are about 2,400 seniors this year, but the exact number of graduates will not be known until after final exams next week. Guidance counselors will inform students of their graduation status no later than May 27.

This will be the first time the county has held its graduation ceremonies at the Georgia Dome, but the third time the events have been held outside the county. Over the last two years, graduation ceremonies took place at the Georgia World Congress Center, which is next door to the Georgia Dome.

Manning said graduates will be sitting in the end zones on the Georgia Dome's football field, with parents sitting in the stands. A large curtain will be hung in the middle of the football field with a graduation set on each side of the curtain, he said.

The entry gate for the graduations will rotate between Gates A and D to minimize the amount of foot traffic in any given area inside the dome, Manning added. Graduating seniors will also not receive their diplomas on the graduation stage. They will get them at one of six booths in the staging area after the ceremony has ended, he said.

"After they pick up their diplomas, there will be a courtyard area between the dome and Phillips Arena where graduates can meet their families and take all of the pictures they want," Manning said. The assistant superintendent also recommended that parents bring zoom lenses for their cameras, if they want a picture of their children walking across the graduation stage.

Parents will not be allowed on the football field.

The school system will provide a shuttle bus service, so graduation attendees can park at Tara Stadium, located at 1055 Battle Creek Road, in Jonesboro, and be transported to the Georgia Dome.

On May 29, the first shuttle will leave Tara Stadium at noon, and the last bus will depart from the Georgia Dome at 10 p.m., according to the school system's web site. On May 30, the first bus will leave Tara Stadium at 7 a.m., and the last bus will depart from the dome at 10:30 p.m., according to the web site.

Manning said families may take the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) train from the College Park station across Interstate 85 from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, to the dome.

He said the cost to hold all the graduation ceremonies will be at least $59,000, which is scheduled to be spent on facility rental, decorations, and to have school resource officers, school administrators and teachers providing security. A question mark remains about how much money will be spent on transporting guests between Tara Stadium and the Georgia Dome, he said.

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On the net:

Clayton County Pubic Schools: http://www.clayton.k12.ga.us/