BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — New state guidelines will allow graduating seniors to receive a diploma and walk across a stage in a cap and gown, but amid COVID-19 pandemic social distancing guidelines, the typical graduation traditions of handshakes, cheering crowds and group photos will be eliminated.
MHS will hold single-family, in-person graduation ceremonies on Saturday, May 23 in the high school Performing Arts Center. Along with wearing the traditional cap and gown, students in the graduating class of 2020 will also be required to wear face masks, which school staff will distribute to them.
The ceremony itself will be closed to the general public and each student will arrive at his or her allotted time along with four guests. They will enter the theater at that time, then walk onto the stage, pick up their diploma, pose for a photo, walk off the stage and exit the theater.
Prior to entering the theater, all graduates and guests will have their temperatures taken and anyone registering 100.4 or higher will not be permitted into the building. In addition, all attendees are required to wear face masks throughout their time in the building. Attendees without a mask, which they will be responsible for acquiring, will not be permitted into the building.
If the weather is nice, a backdrop will be set up outside for family pictures where the masks can be removed.
Specific instructions, inclu-ding allotted arrival times, will be sent to seniors during the week of May 18. In order to graduate, all academic graduation requirements must be met, all outstanding fees must be paid and all borrowed materials must be returned.
It will take approximately seven hours for all 175 graduates to take part in the process, said MHS principal Matt Dick. Only 10 people total will be allowed in the theater at the same time, and Dick will be among the five district staff members on hand at the ceremony.
While several options were considered as a way to hold a ceremony to honor this year’s graduates, Dick consulted with other local schools as well as schools across the state and country for guidance and determined that this would be the best plan.
“This allows families to be there and gives the students a chance to walk across the stage. I am glad we are giving them that,” he said. “The students have a right to walk across the stage and the families have a right to watch the student walk across the stage and this allows them to do that. Is it ideal? No, but does it provide them with a ceremony and finality to school? Yes.”
The idea of a virtual graduation, which had been floated as a possible option, was not something that the administration wanted to do, Dick said.
“I don’t think it gives students and families the closure to high school,” he said.
The entire ceremony will be livestreamed on Facebook and the traditional graduation speeches and student singing will take place prior to the presentation of diplomas. Video footage will then be edited and available for download on the school’s website.
If a student is not comfortable with the format and chooses not to participate in the ceremony, their name will still be read aloud and the diploma will be mailed to them.