|North County High Schools Make Graduation Plans|
|01:43AM / Saturday, May 30, 2020|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Local high schools have been trying to figure out how to properly send off their graduates in a middle of a pandemic.
The administrations at four schools in North County have come up with ways they think will adhere to state guidelines to ensure graduates safety from the novel coronavirus.
School officials representing Drury High School, Hoosac Valley High School, Mount Greylock Regional School and McCann Technical School have been meeting regarding the challenges of school closures because of COVID-19.
State Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Jeffrey Riley on May 21 issued specific guidance regarding graduation plans. This guidance included the following criteria: Ceremonies held up to Saturday, July 18, should be held virtually or in extremely limited other circumstances following safety protocols (e.g., car parades). Ceremonies held beginning Sunday, July 19, may take place outside under the standards outlined in the guidance and assuming the public health data supports the continued opening of our state.
With this guidance in mind, each of the four high schools engaged their stakeholders -- including students and families, faculty and staff, and district administrators -- in developing commencement plans that would meet the needs of their individual communities and give the class of 2020 the recognition that the students deserve.
Drury High School
Graduation is Thursday June 11. The event will begin with a car parade through downtown North Adams at 5 p.m. and culminate with individual diploma presentations on the steps of the school. It will include pre-recorded speeches from the Mayor Thomas Bernard, Superintendent Barbara Malkas, Principal Timothy Callahan, valedictorian Francisco Alicandri, and salutatorian and senior class President Holly Boudreau.
"We reviewed the state guidelines with our Celebration Committee, and, in collaboration with the mayor and the superintendent, we decided to award diplomas in June rather than wait for a possible outdoor event later in the summer," said Principal Timothy Callahan, adding that "several students in the Drury graduating class would not be able to attend a diploma-granting event held in late July or August due to other commitments after graduation."
If health and safety conditions allow, Drury will reconvene the Celebration Committee in late summer to determine the possibility of holding an additional senior celebration that would allow graduates who remain in the area to convene in a socially-distanced fashion at an outdoor venue.
"My heart goes out to the seniors throughout the Northern Berkshires who are being asked to make sacrifices and to find new ways to celebrate the milestones they looked forward to enjoying in close connection with their loved ones, classmates, teachers, and friends," said Bernard. "I appreciate their resilience and creativity in the face of this pandemic as well as the thoughtfulness and maturity which they have stepped up to honor cherished traditions, adapt ceremonies to difficult circumstances, and to claim their moment to receive the support and recognition they deserve. I honor and applaud the graduates of Hoosac Valley, Mount Greylock, and McCann on their achievements, and I especially look forward to cheering on our Drury graduates on June 11th."
Hoosac Valley High School
The "Senior Send Off" began at 11 a.m. on Friday, May 29, at the high school. Seniors received their caps and gowns and a swag bag of goodies coordinated by a Senior Parent team. Cheshire Police and Fire were on hand to escort the seniors through the loop in the front of the building. Family members were invited to participate if they arrived in the same car. Hoosac Valley teachers and staff formed a tunnel to salute the seniors as they drove by.
Members of the class of 2020 voted to postpone graduation until the end of July (tentatively scheduled for July 27 or 28), anticipating fewer restrictions and the vision of an outdoor graduation on the Hurricanes' football field. Class Night will likely be taped, and will air on Northern Berkshire Community Television's Educational Access Channel. Seniors will receive their diplomas/scholarships at the graduation event. All events will adhere to the guidelines put forth by the state and are subject to change.
Mount Greylock Regional School
Incorporating all of its traditions, Mount Greylock will hold graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020 over two days. On Friday, June 5, at 7 p.m., the night of the traditional family picnic, the school will host a Zoom party for the class. From home, students with their families will view a pre-recorded program that includes student speeches, announcements of the class's selection of teacher and staff member of the year, remarks from administration and the distribution of top academic awards. The video will incorporate student-performed music and a slideshow that captures the spirit and character of the class of 2020.
On Saturday, June 6, students with their families will assemble at the Mount Greylock parking lot. To the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance," cars will parade across the campus, and students will be driven to receive diplomas, awards and scholarships as their names, accomplishments and plans for next steps in their lives are shared with all gathered. The morning will end with a procession off campus where the graduates will be greeted and celebrated by faculty, staff, friends, neighbors and community members with banners and balloons, positioned safely along the routes back to their homes.
McCann Technical School
Consistent with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidelines which permit in-person graduations, following specific criteria, after July 19, McCann will be scheduling a combination class-night/graduation ceremony event during the week of July 27 or Aug. 3. The ceremony is planned to take place on the McCann campus and details of the specific date, safety protocols, and audience sizes will be communicated to families when they are finalized.
The district administration for each school wishes to emphasize that all plans are subject to change and require approval of the local department of public health.