NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Drury High School graduates will be getting their diplomas via a car parade on June 11 but school officials confirmed there will be a celebration later this summer.
Several other schools are holding their graduations or a celebration after July 19, the date set by the state Department of Education to allow for outside ceremonies that abide by health guidelines because of COVID-19.
Last week's announcement of a car parade led to grumbling over the weekend from parents and students who had also expected a delayed graduation ceremony.
Principal Timothy Callahan said he and class adviser Christopher Caproni had met with the class officers to assure them that an outside graduation continues to be in the plans.
"We always wanted to have something in June," he said at Tuesday's School Committee meeting. "And then we said, well, if we can't have something in June that is everything, can we have something in June and something later whenever the conditions allow while always being extremely cautious that we might not be able to have anything. ...
"We didn't want to put that out as a guarantee so we intentionally didn't set a summer date, because every date that we've set relating to education in the pandemic has shifted constantly."
The state guidelines only allowed for virtual graduation ceremonies or "extremely limited other circumstances following safety protocols," such as a car parade, until July 18. After that date, outdoor events would be allowed as long as participants abide by policies for masking and safe distancing. These dates are based on positive trends in public data that's guiding the state's reopening from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Superintendent Barbara Malkas said the mayor had offered the use of Noel Field Athletic Complex for a possible date in the first week in August. The capacity for seating and social distancing will have to be measured to ensure the field will fit the guidelines. (In the past, Drury held its graduations on the school's football field but it can be a difficult uphill climb for some.)
"We're required to create a grid on the field so that the students are socially distanced," Malkas said. "And maybe, because I want them all to be able to graduate and go on to whatever comes next for them healthy, we feel that the field will give a greater opportunity to maybe distance a little bit farther to ensure that they're having a good experience but also remaining healthy."
Attendees would have to register in advanced and the number of those attending would be limited. Those considered at risk for COVID-19 would be encouraged to stay home. Social distancing between attendees and graduates would be maintained and monitored and everyone over the age of 2 would be required to have a face covering.
"Knowing that some of our students who have committed to military service will be leaving prior to a date that could be set later in the summer for boot camp, we wanted to have some means of celebrating with those students now, by having a car parade and the photo op," Malkas said.
The car parade of graduates will go through the downtown next week and arrive at Drury High School, where the graduates will be driven up to the front stairs and get out and receive their diploma from the mayor. It will include pre-recorded speeches from Malkas, Callahan, Mayor Thomas Bernard, valedictorian Francisco Alicandri, and salutatorian and senior class President Holly Boudreau.
"I really think that the plans that are going forward really do focus and try to capture all seniors, so that way everyone can feel included and feel like they have their voice said," said Alicandri, the student representative on the committee. "And I really am looking forward to the plans that are coming up."
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