Graduation ceremonies in the Sewanhaka Central High School District have been postponed until the end of July, Superintendent James Grossane posted on the district’s website on May 29, as Long Island begins to reopen its economy.
District officials originally said graduating seniors would go to their respective high schools on June 27 and 28 in their caps and gowns, cross the stage one-at-a-time to receive their diplomas, and have their pictures taken by professional photographers. Families would be given individual time slots for the students’ ceremonies, and two family members would be able to accompany each one.
A more traditional ceremony, complete with speeches and the reading of the graduates’ names, would be recorded and broadcast on the website.
At a virtual Board of Education meeting on May 26, Grossane explained that he waited as long as he possibly could before making an announcement about graduations, but felt that he should release the district’s preliminary plan on May 21, abiding by Cuomo’s guidance at the time.
But, he said in the announcement last Friday, by deciding to postpone the ceremonies to July 25 and 26, “we hope to provide a more traditional graduation for our seniors that is not currently permitted under the Executive Order.”
At the ceremonies, students would be seated on their school’s fields, and spectators would be in the stands. Social distancing measures would be adhered to and guests would likely be required to wear masks.
He made this decision after New York State Senators sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking him to perit high school graduation ceremonies during the coronavirus pandemic, and students in the graduating class created an online petition saying they would like to have traditional ceremonies on the schools’ fields.
“Our students have advocated how important it is for them to graduate with their classmates,” Grossane said. “While we are still unclear as to what the guidelines will dictate in the future, it is also our hope that it will be a significant enough change, so that we can provide the best possible experience for our students and families.”
If restrictions do not relax, however, the district would proceed with its plans for individual ceremonies on July 25.
The Sewanhaka Central High School District is also finalizing its plans to reopen in September. Grossane said the New York State Education Department will be providing guidance about reopening in the coming weeks, and every school district would be required to submit its plans to the Education Department in July for approval. Their plans must consider social distancing, the use of Personal Protective Equipment and safe-cleaning solutions.
Additionally, district officials are developing plans to help re-acclimate students to the schools.
“These times have tried us all, but we are hopefully emerging from all of this very soon,” Grossane said. “I look forward to seeing everyone, in school, very soon.”
The last day of school will be on June 10, but students will have until the 16th to turn in any late assignments. And in Elmont, Superintendent Al Harper said the last day of school would be June 18, with academic summer school beginning on July 6, and continue through July 30.