BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ An "appropriate celebration" is being planned for the scheduled June 18 graduation of the Ridge High School Class of 2020, with additional information on what will be permitted expected in the next few days, Acting Ridge Principal Karen Hudock informed Ridge seniors and their parents at the end of last week.
"I will review that guidance as it relates to our survey results and communicate our plans with you very soon," Hudock said in a communication dated May 14 regarding senior activities that are in the works for the Class of 2020 in the era of COVID-19.
Students suggest in-person graduation of Aug. 6
The school's principal also said an in-person graduation ceremony will be scheduled when health and safety regulations have been fully lifted by state Gov. Phil Murphy.
Student leadership has requested the postponement date of graduation be moved to August 6, 2020, in order to accommodate those graduates who will be attending universities/colleges that begin mid-August," Hudock wrote.
"In the event that social distancing regulations are lifted sooner, we will survey senior families about a potential earlier date," according to the principal. "If restrictions do not permit an August 6 in-person ceremony to be held, we will work with senior alumni leaders to coordinate another date either over Thanksgiving break or at a later time."
The senior prom for the class of 2020 could be held on the previous evening, Aug. 5, if social distancing guidelines and other safety measures permit, Hudock said.
Hudock's message also listed multiple ways in which the graduating Ridge seniors will be recognized in the coming month and beyond.
Parents invited to offer suggestions online
Parents of graduating seniors also are invited to offer suggestions onlinen for how to recognize the Class of 2020 in socially distanced compliant ways.
In the letter, Hudock said the announcement that schools statewide would be closed through the end of the 2019-2020 school year was a disappointment in that all had been hoping students could return to Ridge and finish out the final months of senior year in school with friends.
"While I do not have the ability to change the circumstances before us, I want to reassure you that all hope is not lost!," the principal wrote. "The administrative team is working collaboratively with parent and student leadership groups to ensure that we celebrate and acknowledge all your accomplishments in a manner that is meaningful to you, the Class of 2020."
"In all of my conversations with your peers, there has been one thing that they have made very clear. That the Class of 2020 wants to graduate together on Lee Field!" she wrote.
Hudock said that information being put out by state officials on New Jersey's continuing response to the COVID-19 is changing almost daily. "I am working to sort through the information to make sure that any plans we implement keep your safety and well-being in mind. Please understand that the district is committed to providing you with your in-person graduation ceremony that you so deserve when social distancing regulations have been lifted."
In addition to a graduation ceremony, other senior milestone events like in-person yearbook signing, field day, prom and the senior bash, are all events that the district is working to reschedule "as best we can when the time comes."
Plans will be further evaluated if restricted are modified or lifted, Hudock said. Those with questions should reach out to her, or to contact student leadership groups, she said.
"Ultimately, you will have your day to walk across Lee Field and sit next to your peers donning your green and white caps and gowns showing your Red Devil Pride," she wrote. "As a class, you have managed every challenge that has been placed before you and shown your ability to adapt and respond."
Other events and details on graduation celebrations, as they are now planned, include:
● Class of 2020 Banner: The district has ordered a large banner to hang in the middle of town to recognize the Class of 2020, and will work with the town to have the banner prominently displayed.
● Graduate Lawn Signs: The district will be purchase a celebratory lawn sign for each graduate. The lawn sign will have the graduate’s senior photo and a congratulatory message for the Class of 2020. This district has obtained approval from the township to display them in a prominent location. Every senior’s parent must provide the district with written consent to display their child’s lawn sign, with a consent form posted online.
● Senior Friday Night Lights: Every Friday night beginning May 15, the lights on Lee Field will be turned on at 8:20 p.m. for 20 minutes in recognition of the Class 2020. Households are encouraged to join in by turning on their own front porch lights.
● We Love Our Seniors Committee: A group of staff members have created a "We Love Our Seniors Committee," which is working together to create ideas and suggestions for the staff on ways to connect with seniors in a special way during the remaining weeks of school."
● Virtual Awards Night: A virtual awards night will be created to recognize the accomplishments of those seniors who have received individual academic or athletic awards/scholarships. The date is to be decided.
● Cap & Gown Distribution and Yearbooks: Caps and gowns and yearbooks are scheduled to arrive at RHS in early June. Once caps and gowns and the yearbooks have arrived, a distribution plan will be shared with seniors and their parents. The goal is also to distribute locker contents and collect any school issued materials that students may have in their possession all at the same time.
● Senior Prom: An in-person prom will occur when health and safety regulations have been lifted fully by the governor. If social distancing regulations are lifted by the proposed August 6 graduation date, the senior prom will be held on August 5 at the Birchwood Manor. If social distancing regulations are not lifted by the August date, students will be surveyed, at a later time, regarding the type of event they would prefer to be held in the future.
● Field Day/Yearbook Signing: Senior field day also was canceled due to the closure of school. If social distancing regulations are lifted by Aug 6, the school will work with the vendors to try and select a new date which is in close proximity to graduation and prom.
● Senior Bash: The Project Graduation Team is exploring all options regarding potential rescheduling of this event.
● Student Government Posting: The student government is celebrating any senior that wishes to be recognized on their joint @ridgeclassof2020 account on Instagram. Students should submit posts by May 29, 2020.
Over the course of the past four years, the senior class has fundraised to pay for their end of the year events and celebrations. Many parents are now asking what will become of those funds now that schools are closed through June and events are canceled.
"We anticipate that the Class of 2020 will want to still hold these events in the future. If social distancing regulations are lifted this summer, the school district will explore hosting multiple events over several days. If social distancing regulations are not lifted until the fall or later, student representatives would explore the possibility of hosting a formal alumni event over Thanksgiving break or at a later date, Hudock said.