By ERIN ROLL
Montclair High School will have both a virtual graduation ceremony June 24, and an in-person ceremony July 9 at the Aubrey Lewis Sports Complex.
Last Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that in-person graduations would be allowed after July 6 and with social distancing practices in place.
“[The ceremony] will be outdoors and follow the required guidelines. The location will be the football field at Aubrey Lewis Sports Complex,” Interim Superintendent Nathan Parker said.
Participation will be voluntary and only two guests will be allowed to attend. A rain date has been set for July 10.
The sports complex includes both Woodman Field and Fortunato Field.
Parker added that the plans are pending at this point, pending approval from the township, the health department and the school district’s insurance carriers.
And the specifics of the ceremony are still being determined, Parker said. But guidelines from the Department of Education issued Wednesday, May 27, state that all attendees should wear masks (with the exception of children under the age of two and people who have a medical condition), and all students must remain six feet apart. The length of ceremonies should be limited.
Some schools unable to allow for the six-foot rule due to space constraints are holding multiple ceremonies or drive thru ceremonies.
But Parker said the complex should be able to accommodate all students, but speakers and musical performances may be limited, said Parker.
District officials had planned a virtual ceremony in lieu of a modified in-person ceremony, prior to Murphy announcing that in-person ceremonies may be held. District officials decided to hold both the virtual and the in-person due to the time already spent on putting together the virtual ceremony and for students who may not be in town in July.
“And only in the last few days was it ever allowable to have an in person graduation. And you can see how much in person means to people so we are trying to be responsive, yet, not require students to be in person who might not be comfortable doing so,” Parker said.
Lacordaire is also planning two celebrations, said Lacordaire Academy head Megan Mannato. On June 6 and June 9, which are the dates the ceremonies for seniors and eighth graders would have been held, the school staff will drive to the homes of the seniors and the eighth graders, and present them with their diploma or their eighth grade certificate. On July 25, Lacordaire will have an outdoor ceremony at the school, with social distancing measures in place. The ceremony will include events for the school’s graduating kindergarten class as well, she said.
“Governor Murphy’s announcement couldn’t have come at a better time,” Mannato said, since the school had tentatively put July 25 on the calendar for an outdoor ceremony.
Montclair Kimberley Academy and Immaculate Conception High School did not respond to requests for details on their ceremonies.
The New Jersey Department of Education issued a series of guidelines late Wednesday night for holding the in-person ceremonies whether drive-in, drive-through, or modified in-person.
The number of staff members will be limited to only those required to facilitate the ceremony. Ceremonies must take place outdoors, and open-air tarps, tents and other structures may be set up only to allow for shade or protection against inclement weather. DOE officials recommended the use of separate entrances and exits, with monitoring by staff members. Depending on class size, a school may need multiple ceremonies over a period of several days.
The DOE has also advised that districts should consider limiting the length of ceremonies, and limiting speakers and other performances.
Sick individuals should not attend, and districts should discourage a visitor or someone in their household from attending if that person is showing signs of respiratory illness, or has been in contact with someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days. DOE officials recommend school districts have screening procedures, including the taking of temperatures, at the entrance to the ceremony.
School districts holding in-person ceremonies must certify to the DOE that their ceremony will comply with all needed requirements. Districts must do so through an online form that will be available through the DOE website on June 5, and the information must be submitted no later than seven days prior to the scheduled date of the ceremony.