Schools plan for graduation alternatives

By Mark Reynolds
Posted 5/27/20

With high school graduations just a month away, the Highland and Marlboro school districts have been making plans on the best way to honor the Class of 2020 during this difficult and unprecedented …

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Schools plan for graduation alternatives

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With high school graduations just a month away, the Highland and Marlboro school districts have been making plans on the best way to honor the Class of 2020 during this difficult and unprecedented time of the Coronavirus.

Highland Superintendent Thomas Bongiovi said High School Principal Zimmer recently sent out a survey to all of the graduating seniors and their parents.

“An overwhelming majority of the students and the parents want to wait and do something in late July hoping that it could possibly be some version of a live graduation,” he said. “In the meantime we are still doing all of the work for a virtual graduation because we don’t want to get to that point and not have anything planned.”

Bongiovi said the students are waiting for their yearbooks and caps and gowns to arrive. Once on site the seniors will pick them up. He and the Board Of Education are continuing to work on possible scenarios of what graduation will look like this year.

“There are all kinds of possibilities; from some kind of drive-up to a parade in town, or maybe in small batches in an actual live graduation. It all depends upon what the Governor says we can do.”

Bongiovi has had a long career in education and this graduation is the, “most unique. We’ve never been in this territory. I do feel for all the students but especially the seniors because their year got cut short and I know they miss their friends. I tell them in my weekly message to stay positive and always try to find the silver lining in things.”

Bongiovi suspects that during this pandemic families have grown closer because of the amount of time they have been spending together.

Bongiovi said the online learning programs for the students have been going well.

“Initially we got in touch with all of our students, gave out all of the devices and are still giving out a second device if the family needs it,” he said. “I am very proud of the faculty and staff for all of their hard work because it’s not easy on them either. They had to kind of relearn a lot of things themselves.”

Bongiovi not only thanked the district’s teaching staff, “who have gone above and beyond, but also all of the bus drivers and transportation people who have been delivering food to people and have even planned drive-bys of their own kids. The custodial staff has been very busy cleaning in the building and all of the support staff has been pitching in any way that they can.”

Bongiovi thanked the Board of Education for their support of the Central Administration, the faculty and the staff.

Marlboro Superintendent Michael Brooks reported that his district is also waiting to hear from the Governor on what they will be able to do for graduation.

“As soon as we know what they are gong to allow us to do, then we know the options we can choose,” he said. “We’ve got time; technically it’s a month away and we are moving forward.”

Brooks said High School Principal Ryan Lawler has also sent out surveys to all of the students to solicit their input on what they would like to see take place. Additionally, Brooks said Lawler is working on a recorded video, “so they are taking pictures for a recorded virtual kind of video; so that is happening regardless.” He noted that this is a fall back position for his preferred option of having a live event. He said they have not ruled out an off-site venue for graduation, perhaps at a drive-in or a large parking lot setting.

“The one that’s chosen is the one most ‘live’ that is allowable,” however, there is no notification of when that’s going to be,” he said. Brooks sent out an end of the year letter to the families of the Marlboro Central School District.

He wrote, “Over the course of the past two months, our students and teachers have accomplished so much. We have come to realize that we are capable of a lot in the way of online learning. I am overwhelmed with joy and pride that our staff has embraced the changes thrown at them, and have been able to provide our students with the best experiences possible. For that I am grateful.”

Brooks said during the next few weeks the school facilities will be prepared for summer cleaning and getting ready for the start of the Vision 2020 capital project.

“You should begin to see construction activity happening in June and July. We will continue to send out updates as the project develops,” he said. “This is an exciting project that will advance our schools, especially in the areas of technology and the arts. I encourage you to visit the Vision 2020 page on our website for more information.”

Brooks said online learning will end on June 11th, which marks the 180th day of required instruction for the 2019-20 school year. This year there will be no final exams and the Regents Exams have all been canceled.

In his letter Brooks presented the current options for graduation that are under consideration.

MES Grade 5 Celebration Tentative – Caravan/Motorcade Parade: Wednesday, June 10 @ 9:30 AM at MES Online Video Montage - Thursday, June 25 at 9:30 AM

MMS Grade 8 Celebration Tentative - Caravan/Motorcade Parade: Wednesday, June 10 at 1 p.m. at MMS Online Virtual Moving Up - Thursday, June 25 at 1p.m.

MHS Graduation – *Health Department guidance will lead to the best decision on how to proceed with graduation. A virtual backup is being created with the hope that guidance will allow for a live in person option.**

Tentative Options being considered:

Option 1 - Regular graduation - June 26.

Option 2 - Modified graduation – 3 smaller (50 students), socially distanced and live at MHS - June 26 p.m., June 27, a.m. & p.m.

Option 3 - Off site at a drive-in with students and family in their own cars – Possible date options - June 17, 18.

Option 4 - Drive up motorcade at MHS with graduates exiting cars and receiving diplomas one at a time.

Option 5 - Recorded video with speeches and slides for graduates.

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