With the coronavirus pandemic leaving many plans in limbo, administrators at Lynbrook Public Schools announced that they are hoping for an in-person ceremony on July 22.
“We hope to be able to hold a more traditional, on-field graduation ceremony at Marion Street [Elementary School], Principal Joseph Rainis announced in a letter to the community. “If restrictions ease earlier, we will push up the date of this event. Details will be shared as the date approaches.”
Graduation was originally scheduled for June 26 at Marion Street before the pandemic hit. With bans on large social gatherings and persistent health risks escalating over the past three months, district officials monitored the situation while rethinking those plans.
On Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that schools across the state could host limited, socially distanced graduation ceremonies beginning June 26. With a declining number of Covid-19 cases statewide, Cuomo decided that ceremonies limited to 150 people would be permitted.
On June 15, seniors in Lynbrook High School’s class of 2020 will return their tablets at the LHS parking lot and collect their caps and gowns at times determined by their last names. The following day, graduates are invited to wear their caps and gowns and will have an opportunity to walk across the stage in the high school gym on Senior Portrait Day to receive a symbolic diploma case, much like a traditional graduation, and administrators from the high school will be in attendance for pictures.
Senior Portrait Day will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., allowing graduates to pose for photos and to receive yearbooks and any awards they would have accepted at the year-end ceremonies, such as athletic and music honors, the presentations of which were held virtually. The schedule will be created on TeacherReacher.com, and three photographers will be on hand at the ceremony. To avoid any health risks, the appointments will be six minutes apart, and accommodate three graduates and their parents at a time. Sign-ups on the site began at 8 a.m. on Monday, and will be available until Friday at 8 p.m.
The district also has plans for a virtual graduation. The company Herff-Jones will develop a website for LHS, and all keynote speeches, including the valedictorian and salutatorian speeches, will be recorded and uploaded there. Other graduates will also have the opportunity to create their own short video to become a part of the experience, but the recording will not be available until July 22 at 9 p.m.
For the graduates that will not be able to attend the tentative July 22 ceremony because of military duties or having to leave for college early, the high school will have their diplomas delivered to their homes.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky said the governor’s decision to allow limited, more traditional graduation ceremonies was a move in the right direction, but still unsatisfying for seniors. “This is an encouraging step, but it is still important to reach the ultimate goal of having the entire class of 2020 graduating together,” he said. “Our students deserve recognition for their tremendous successes and we cannot stop pushing until they celebrate this milestone together, in a safe and healthy way.”
East Rockaway School District officials were still finalizing plans for graduation at press time.
Though it has been a difficult year for students, including seniors, because many events such as prom and the spring sports season were canceled and they had to adapt to distance learning, many of them have tried to see the positives in the experience.
Lynbrook High School valedictorian Arpie Bakhshian urged her peers to stay optimistic and goal-oriented.
“With so much occurring across the globe and in America that is new, unprecedented and even chaotic, it is easy to forget the subtleties of our lives that make us truly happy and keep us motivated to chase our dreams,” she said. “Try to take a moment each day to remember what makes us happy and to motivate yourself.”
East Rockaway High School valedictorian Zackary Hirashima said the senior class would be stronger for having gone through such adversity.
“If we get through this pandemic, economic crisis and social upheaval and still come out all right, it only proves that we have the will to resolve anything in our path,” he said. “Even if growth slows to a halt and industry has nowhere to go, we must remember not to fixate on the will to progress, but experience life as it is realized.”