NORTH EASTHAM – A surge in COVID-19 numbers on Cape Cod has necessitated another cancellation, this one impacting Nauset Regional High School’s Class of 2020, which had its planned July 28 commencement ceremony called off.
In the wake of stories regarding an uptick in new cases following a July 12 party in Chatham that has so far resulted in 13 new COVID-19 cases, Nauset administrators, including Principal Christopher Ellsasser, decided to cancel the celebratory event.
“We have canceled the graduation celebration due to the changing status of the virus on the Cape,” Ellsasser wrote in an email.
In a letter to seniors and their families on the school website, Ellsasser said that after consulting with Superintendent Tom Conrad, the Eastham Board of Health, and the Eastham Police Department, it was deemed that “the current state of the virus on the Outer Cape makes it impossible for us to safely host the ceremony.”
Unlike Cape Tech and Monomoy, which opted for altered commencement ceremonies — Cape Tech’s at the Wellfleet Drive-In and Monomoy’s a parent-free event — Nauset hoped that by postponing their graduation to late July it would give COVID-19 numbers a chance to decrease, making a socially distant ceremony safer.
Unfortunately, an uptick in cases, many attributed to a July 12 party in Chatham, has rendered that hope null. Though Nauset held a Senior Celebration night at the Wellfleet Drive-In at the end of June, it wasn’t the school’s official graduation. That event was planned for July 28 on the school’s turf football field, with graduates set to receive their diplomas and celebrate the milestone of finishing high school.
Ellsasser expressed deep disappointment at having to cancel.
“We are all heartbroken, angry, and tired of being disappointed,” he said. “We had hoped for one normal moment in the sun for our community to end the year on a positive note for our kids and their families who have had to sacrifice so much.”
Now, school officials are making plans to deliver diplomas, Nauset-themed ceremony masks, and ceremony programs to the homes of graduates, many of whom are hoping to depart for colleges soon.
Faith Rushnak, whose son Spencer is a member of the Class of 2020, said the news was painful.
“I found out in a text thread with other moms on Saturday and was absolutely gutted,” Rushnak said. “It took me completely by surprise given that the event was a mere 72 hours away.”
Rushnak said she immediately called her son, who was disappointed but not surprised.
“I think these kids have already moved on,” she said.
Though saddened by the decision, Rushnak said she thinks it was for the best.
“After a good cry and putting aside my own feelings of loss (in having another life event taken from us), I do believe it was the right decision by Tom Conrad and Chris Ellsasser,” Rushnak said. “The more I read about COVID-19 spreading throughout the Cape and especially with teenagers this summer, I can’t help but think that gathering us all on the turf field, even at six-foot distances, would make us all that much more vulnerable.”
Rushnak said her hope now is to see her son safely off to college in the coming weeks.
“I, for one, hope these last few weeks keep all kids COVID clear so they can start their college experiences in a healthy way,” she said.