A MESSAGE TO SENIORS
We know that nothing can replace the formal, customary in-person graduation ceremony in front of your family and friends. You have earned it and deserve it. The school district remains committed to providing you with it. But when that event can be held remains uncertain, as you know since an event of that magnitude is in Phase 4 of the State's reopening plan. There is currently no timeline for the State's plan. COVID19 will drive the timeline. For planning purposes, we will identify and announce a date as soon as possible and in accordance with the State's and District's reopening plan.
In the meantime, I am happy to report to you that this coming week your Principal and Activities Director will announce plans for a curbside “Drive Up, No Contact Graduation” event for any senior who chooses to participate. We will also announce a Virtual Graduation, also for seniors who choose to participate. The Drive Up, No Contact Graduation will capture as much of the spirit, heart, and soul of a customary graduation celebration as is humanly possible given the restrictions imposed in the interests of the public's health. There will be an official printed program, your name will be announced, you will walk across a decorated stage, your picture will be taken with your diploma by a professional photographer, all to the familiar sound of traditional graduation music. Families are encouraged to capture the moment in video from their cars. You will receive instructions from your school.
Again, we all realize this is not a substitute for a customary ceremony. But for students who choose to participate it's one more way to celebrate this benchmark occasion in your life. Recall that shortly after schools were closed and it became clear that there would be no formal graduation ceremony, at least until well after the school year ends and you all go your separate ways, we conducted a Thought Exchange to hear your voices. Almost 45% of seniors participated - a total of 587 students in all. The top thoughts all revolved around one common theme: A traditional graduation ceremony when the time comes that it's safe to do so. Below is the top-ranked thought of the 342 thoughts submitted. It perfectly captured the theme of senior responses:
"I understand that we are going through a hard time, if or when the time comes of being able to be in large groups then we as Seniors should be able to Have our graduation Ceremony. We deserve to be able to celebrate our hard work and make our teachers and family proud."
Below is a WordCloud of the exchange thoughts:
The seventh highest-ranked thought captured senior sentiment related to the concept of a virtual ceremony.
"I would really like to have a traditional graduation shortly after the ban of large gatherings has been lifted. It is something I have been looking forward to and would be saddened to see it demeaned by doing something online through zoom or minecraft."
We followed up the ThoughtExchange with a Senior survey this past week. Of our approximately 1,400 seniors, 435 participated in the survey. Again, the sentiments made it clear that a virtual ceremony is not very popular. See below:
But the survey also revealed that only 85% of the Class of 2020 would return for a graduation event if it's held at a later date.
Then why are we planning on a virtual ceremony too? Since we conducted the ThoughtExchange, it has become evident that a graduation ceremony cannot be held until long after graduation. A virtual ceremony is the safest way to celebrate the entire class while it's still together before everyone goes their separate ways. Besides, it's voluntary. Students who choose not to participate will still be in the official printed program and the virtual program and will be represented by their senior picture. The ceremony will be streamed over YouTube sometime in mid-June. It will include graduation speeches and many of the other elements of a proper graduation that can be produced virtually. Principals and Activities Directors will provide details on the ways students can participate in the virtual ceremony (i.e. submit a video, senior picture, footage/pictures from Drive-Through celebrations). While you may not be interested in a virtual ceremony at this moment in time, you may feel differently later in your life. I hope you all will participate.
Your schools will provide you with instructions for both the Drive-Through and the Virtual graduation events. The same exact Drive-Through ceremonies will take place at each school over a series of days during the last week of school and will consist of the following parameters to comply with Phase 2 of the State's Resilience Roadmap and Board Policies' 3000, 3514, 3515.2, 3530, and 5141.22, all in place to protect students and the public:
- Each high school will construct a single riser, adorned with school colors and decorations at a curbside location on campus.
- Each graduating senior will be assigned a specific day within a time slot based on last name alpha.
- Upon arrival at the designated location, the graduating senior will exit his/her vehicle. The vehicle must proceed through the drive-through line. Only one graduating senior will be permitted to exit his/her vehicle at a time.
- When the senior’s name is called, he/she will ascend the riser for a professional photograph. Seniors must arrive in their cap and gown and in their vehicle and bring their diploma and/or diploma case for the photograph.
- 3 minutes have been allotted per student from exiting their vehicle to reentering their vehicle.
- The District will provide to the graduating senior an 8 x 10 photograph to commemorate the event.
- The senior’s family may cheer for, celebrate, record, and photograph the drive-through graduation event from their vehicle. Friends and family members will not be allowed to exit their vehicles.
- One vehicle per graduate, not to exceed 7 passengers.
- After the senior’s photograph is taken, he/she will leave the riser and return to his/her vehicle which must promptly exit the drive-through line.
As hard as we try to replace a customary graduation ceremony we will fall well short. But on behalf of the Board of Education and the entire district we hope these events will provide you with the recognition you deserve, given the fact that we are in the midst of an uncontrolled pandemic and struggling as a state and nation to overcome this horrific disease. While providing you with what you've earned and rightly deserve is a high priority for us, your wellbeing takes precedence. We hope you understand.
Dr. Mucerino, on behalf of the Board of Education.
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