The 2019-2020 academic year has been one filled with changes, and graduation plans have been no different.
In a letter to Ward Melville High School seniors and families earlier in June, Principal William Bernhard and 12th-grade Assistant Principal Erin Connolly announced that the school was developing a plan to host an in-person graduation Sunday, July 19. The decision came a month after plans were already made to hold five separate ceremonies during the week of June 22, which would have involved seniors being split into groups of five alphabetically and families being required to stay in their cars as one senior at a time got out of each vehicle to accept their diploma.
According to the June letter, the decision to cancel the drive-through graduation this week and revert back to an in-person ceremony was made after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) earlier in the month signed an executive order giving permission to host in-person graduation ceremonies beginning June 26 with a maximum of 150 people that meet the social-distancing guidelines.
The order propelled the high school to develop a new graduation plan for 2020 with the hopes that future changes will allow an in-person graduation for the class of more than 500 even though they are proceeding cautiously.
“If the current parameters are not relaxed by this new graduation date, the district will continue with the in-vehicle format on Monday, July 20, through Friday, July 24,” the letter reads. “Social-distancing guidelines, including masks and reduced numbers in attendance, must still be in place for any live event.”
The school plans for each graduate to be restricted to two guests, and when students pick up their caps and gowns, there will be a packet with a colored parking pass in order to enter the grounds on graduation day.
Jennifer Catalano, whose daughter Rachael is graduating this year, was pleased to hear the news.
“I’m happy that the school district has gone above and beyond to make graduation as traditional as possible,” she said. “My daughter is happy she will be able to turn her tassel and partake in the traditional cap toss.”
Senior Jake Shangold was also glad to hear of the possibility of an in-person ceremony.
“I know as a senior it would be nice to have the whole class together to share one last moment,” he said. “I know Principal Bernhard and Superintendent Pedisich are doing all they can to make sure seniors are being celebrated.”
Salutatorian Matthew Fiorella, who will be reading a speech at the ceremony along with valedictorian William Sun, is looking forward to a “relatively normal graduation.”
“I was happy that we were still able to have a graduation ceremony when the drive-through plan was created, but being able to have a true in-person graduation is exciting,” he said.