TEWKSBURY/WILMINGTON — With COVID-19 causing Governor Charlie Baker to shut down schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, students statewide are missing key events in their education year.
But none know the implications of this loss more than seniors.
These students are missing events that they have worked for four years to get to. For many kids, walking the stage at a graduation ceremony was their motivation to work hard during their time at high school. Many had been saving up money to purchase senior week tickets, prom dresses, and other such expenses.
While some schools have yet to release plans for their seniors, others have already finalized and started to move forwards with their alternative graduations.
Wilmington High School alerted their seniors of their plans on Friday, May 8. The administration called it a “hybrid” graduation ceremony. On June 7, with a rain date of June 8, there will be a parade where each senior and their family will drive to the high school, where teachers will be lined up to cheer the seniors on as they drive up to receive their diploma at designated times.
Later that day, on WCTV, there will be a prerecorded ceremony broadcasted to the seniors, with speeches from the Town Manager, superintendent, Wilmington High School principal, and chairperson of the Town Committee.
The Wilmington School Administration is also working to organize a cap and gown and yearbook pickup, as well as take pictures of each senior in their cap and gown. The pickup will take place the week of May 26.
Additionally, the school is working to organize a rescheduled traditional ceremony in July or August, as well as a cookout.
Wilmington High School administration expressed in their letter:
“I would like to thank everyone for reaching out with their suggestions. I am especially grateful for those seniors who expressed their thoughts about having a traditional graduation. As you know that cannot happen now. We are also uncertain about when restrictions will be lifted in order to plan a traditional ceremony. This is the reason why we chose to go with both. Our plans now do not follow the traditional ceremonies, but they are designed to honor and celebrate our seniors in accordance with our ‘new normal.’ As much as I dislike this ‘new normal,’ I am focused on the safety and well-being of everyone involved in these events.”
Tewksbury Memorial High School released their own plans for the seniors of 2020, included in the newsletter released by the principal on May 4, 2020.
The plan set forth by TMHS administration includes providing each senior an appointment time between June 2 and June 4 to go with family members to Tewksbury Memorial High School. One car per senior is allowed. Appointment times are set to ensure safety for everyone with social distancing.
Each senior receiving a diploma will be broadcasted live walking the stage and picking up their yearbook, regalia, diploma, and other items, and will have the chance to take pictures with Principal Kristen Vogel.
Seniors will receive one prepaid picture taken by a photographer.
On June 5, there will also be a prerecorded virtual ceremony premiered to the seniors. Seniors now have the chance to submit their slides for the ceremony, and to vote on the faculty speaker.
In terms of receiving caps and gowns, those will be mailed to students, along with a yard sign, and should be received before Memorial Day.
There is a proposed pick-up day for students who left items or need to drop off any textbooks. The proposed date is June 1, the day before the graduation process begins.
In regards to Senior Prom, scheduled for June 2 at Danversport Yacht Club, that has been cancelled, due to current social distancing guidelines. However, some students are planning their own backyard proms, once some restrictions are lifted, so they can still have that experience with their closest friends.
The TMHS PAC is working to put together (depending on social distancing restrictions) a late summer “Send off Event,” a combination of a proposed cookout and the annual All Night Long event. This will be the chance for the Class of 2020 to see each other one last time before college.
If restrictions are still in place, and the event is not possible, the PAC will help with the one year event scheduled for June.
Additionally, the Senior Class Officers are planning to put together a one year reunion, a harbor cruise, in early June of 2021. The harbor cruise was an event originally scheduled for senior week, but has now been postponed. The date for this event will be announced once the details are finalized.
Principal Vogel said in her weekly newsletter:
“The amount of character, growth, kindness, and personality this class has exhibited over the past four years has been and will continue to be amazing. We are exceptionally proud of their resilience, gratitude and patience.”
As further stated by Principal Vogel:
“This is unprecedented and we need to be flexible and creative during this most unusual time. With that being said, we have made every effort to include many, if not all, of the traditions and aspects of end of the year events, and, most importantly, your graduation ceremony. And our hearts break for you.”
Lowell High School is working to set June 17 as their potential rescheduled date for prom, though this may be unlikely. June 24 and Aug. 8 as potential graduation ceremony dates. Lowell High School has also sent out surveys asking students how they would feel about a virtual graduation event in June.
North Andover High School is setting up appointments for their seniors to come to the high school with their families to pick up diplomas in their caps and gowns, and they will be recorded walking across the stage. These videos will be compiled into a graduation video being sent out to said seniors on June 5.
In addition, North Andover High School is scheduling (dependent on social distancing guidelines) A “Celebration of the Seniors” on July 24 and a “Formal Event” at Danversport Yacht Club on July 25.
While students and families in all communities are grateful for what their administrations have come up with, there is no doubt that everyone is disappointed that the seniors will not be able to have a normal graduation with each other, or get to say goodbye to their teachers and faculty.
Without question, this graduation year will be remembered for the resilience of the students of the Class of 2020 and the creativity of the school districts working hard to celebrate them.