HARWICH/EASTHAM – When it came to holding graduations during the COVID-19 pandemic, area seniors were clear — they’d rather wait or hold a graduates-only event than celebrate virtually. The good news for the Class of 2020 is that each of the area high schools has a graduation plan, and none are virtual.
Cape Cod Tech will hold its graduation June 4 at the Wellfleet Drive-In, Monomoy Regional High School will hold an outdoor graduation on June 23, and Nauset Regional High School's ceremony will be held July 30, also outdoors.
For weeks, administrators at Monomoy High brainstormed ideas on how to hold a meaningful graduation during a time of quarantine. At the May 14 school committee meeting, Principal Bill Burkhead revealed not only the school’s graduation plans, but also what educators and administrators will be doing to honor their graduates.
After mulling over the results of a graduation survey the school had sent out last week, the 138 responses, split almost equally between parents and graduates, showed that nearly everyone expressed a desire to hold a ceremony at the high school.
“The kids, at minimum, want to see their friends, wear their caps and gowns, and be on school property,” Burkhead said.
In the survey, the approximately 120 graduates and their families were asked whether they wanted the ceremony moved to later in June, later in the summer, held virtually, and/or be a seniors-only, no family event. While the Sharks were fiercely opposed to a virtual event, the majority said they’d be happy with a ceremony at the high school for seniors only.
On June 23 beginning at 8 p.m., MRHS will hold a special evening commencement that will follow social distancing protocol for seniors on the sports field behind the high school under the lights. To include parents, plans are in the works for a pre-commencement parade, as well as a special video tribute suggested by school committee member Terry Russell. The event will be live streamed for families and friends to view.
From May 26 to June 8 will be Shark Sightings, something of a virtual Spirit Week that will feature a Twitter photo contest, with categories such as Best School Spirit, Best Throwback, Best Quarantine Photo, and Best Decorated Cap. On May 29, seniors are invited to take their Shark Last Lap by driving their cars, decorations if desired, around the school one last time. On June 1 there will be a Senior Slideshow and on June 2 at 8 p.m. there will be a Shark Athletic Tribute. From June 2 to June 5, Burkhead will be joined by fellow administrators in delivering caps and gowns via bus, dubbed the Shark Mobile.
Burkhead said an important consideration in the graduation plan was ensuring every graduate would be part of the ceremony.
“One of our guiding principles was that every graduate be there,” he said. “That was one of our philosophical beliefs.”
Seniors at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School also eschewed the idea of a virtual graduation ceremony, and instead will have their celebration on the evening of June 4 at the Wellfleet Drive-In, pending permission from the Wellfleet Board of Health.
“Everything’s subject to change, but for the most part it’s one to two cars per kid, prerecorded speeches on the big screen, and a slideshow introducing every graduate with their photo and their accomplishments,” said Cape Tech Superintendent Bob Sanborn. “We’re definitely still working out the finer points.”
Seniors recently received their caps and gowns via delivery from the school, each posing for a photo upon receipt, and the photos will be part of the slideshow tribute. Last month, students received lawn signs commemorating the Class of 2020, also by special delivery.
Sanborn said that he’s thrilled seniors will be able to enjoy something of an in-person celebration.
“I’m glad that we can do something in person, maintaining social distancing protocols,” he said. “I’m happy we’re not having a Zoom graduation. Nothing is a substitute for the real thing, but at least this is something.”
At Nauset Regional High School, seniors weighed in and opted to hold their graduation as late in the summer as possible before graduates would be heading off to their next adventures, which is why Nauset’s graduation ceremony will be held July 30 beginning at 5 p.m. at the school's sports stadium.
“When we talked to our kids, they wanted to maintain prom, the senior dinner with the yearbooks, and graduation as face-to-face experiences if possible,” said Nauset Principal Dr. Christopher Ellsasser. “That’s what we’re prepared for.”
Nauset’s celebration of its seniors begins on May 29, what would have been the seniors’ last day, with a motorcade of seniors and school staff doing a special drive around the school in decorated cars and trucks. On June 7 there will be a Senior Celebration Night at the Wellfleet Drive-In, where graduates will view a commemorative slideshow and videos of the speeches their classmates would have given at their traditional graduation.
To honor the school’s athletes, an innovative NRHS Delivery Service will be bringing each their varsity jackets and letters, as well as awards. There will also be a Senior Dinner at the high school, with a chance for signing yearbooks. Then, on July 27, students will enjoy their annual prom, before the official graduation ceremony on July 30.
Ellsasser said that the June 7 event will be in keeping with social distancing requirements, with everyone remaining inside their vehicles.
“We’re in no rush to put people in harm’s way,” he said. “And we also refuse to do nothing. We’re going to do whatever is allowed, and obviously safety is our first priority.”