NJ schools consider plans for Class of 2020 graduations
Across New Jersey, the Class of 2020 increasingly appears destined to get two moments of year-end recognition. A number of schools now are looking at virtual ceremonies in the near future, while in-person festivities typically set for June have remained in limbo due to the COVID-19 pandemic that so far has seen 118,652 cases statewide.
"Yes, seniors at both of our high schools (John P. Stevens and Edison High School) will definitely participate in graduation ceremonies, whether they are virtual or in-person depends on the situation with the COVID-19 virus as the date approaches, along with government guidelines at that time," Edison schools Superintendent Bernard Bragen said in a statement to New Jersey 101.5.
As of late April, the Edison administrative team and Board of Education had not made any final decisions.
"We are currently working out the logistics of a graduation program that will honor our graduates and still ensure everyone's safety," Bragen said.
It's a similar holding pattern for at least six high schools in Monmouth County, which make up the Freehold Regional district.
"We continue to explore multiple options for recognizing our seniors in the event graduation ceremonies cannot be held on June 24, as scheduled," Freehold Regional High School Superintendent Charles Sampson said in a written response to New Jersey 101.5. "The option we ultimately choose will be dependent upon what is and what is not permissible under the Governor's Executive Order."
On Tuesday, a coalition of school administrators, teachers, parents and school boards sent a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy, requesting that he announce remote learning will remain in effect for the rest of the school year. The Leadership for Educational Excellence said schools would not be in a position to reopen between May 15 and the scheduled end of classes the following month.
The Lakewood school district recently put out a contingency plan based on the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year continuing with remote learning. The plan starts with a virtual high school graduation via Google Meet or Zoom. An in-person ceremony would be held "at a future time, when it is deemed safe and healthy for all." The senior prom also would be held a future date.
Toms River schools Superintendent David Healy already is looking months ahead on the calendar while committing to the fact that "one way or another" there will be a graduation ceremony in-person for the three public high schools in the township (Toms River High School North,Toms River High School South and Toms River High School East).
Healy said an in-person ceremony by late summer would run into the typical disperse of students heading to college, military or workforce by August. So, Toms River is brainstorming the idea of a belated graduation ceremony for November, timed around Thanksgiving, or even during winter break, when the majority of current seniors would be home.
In the interim, principals, central administration and student leaders are looking at a virtual ceremony as a holdover, with possible inclusion of some of Toms River's "famous, successful alumni."
Healy said for any adults grousing for the graduating class to "get over" the idea of a missed graduation, you always have to put yourself back in the place of a teenager and remember how important such life events and milestones are to a 17-year-old. He said in a profession "where everything is child-centered, that’s how we make our decisions."
Elizabeth public schools, among the state's largest districts, said Wednesday that graduation specifics were still being worked out without getting further into detail.
South Brunswick High School Superintendent Scott Feder said only that “we will have graduation in one form or another.”