BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ — School leaders are working on plans for Ridge High School graduates to receive their diplomas at the school’s Lee Field athletic facility on June 18, the day long planned for the ceremony.
They will do so individually on the field, stopping to receive the diploma and have a “photo opportunity,” Superintendent Nick Markarian said at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.
Everything has to be done in collaboration with the township’s health and police departments, he said, so as to conform with ongoing “social distancing” and crowd restrictions coming from the state government. For instance, current regulations prohibit gatherings of more than 25 people, he said.
Such a program follows through on the notice sent May 14 by Acting Principal Karen Hudock that an "appropriate celebration" is being planned.
Markarian said the final decision on the June 18 plans may come as early as today, Tuesday.
The school may hold another ceremony after July 6, the date Gov. Phil Murphy has said New Jersey schools could properly hold outdoor graduation ceremonies, while respecting social distancing of 6 feet between people. Markarian said Ridge plans will be held until the district is sure how and what kind of event can be held, to avoid announcing plans only to be forced to change them.
The end-of-year plans might not be what students want entirely, Markarian said, but leaders were “working hard to make it everything it can be.”
"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!" Hudock wrote to students in May.
State rules in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are changing almost daily. On Monday, Murphy announced outdoor dining and non-essential businesses may open on June 15, and that barber shops and salons may reopen June 22.
In addition to a graduation ceremony, other Ridge High 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."
The school has devised other ways to recognize the students’ signature achievement, like a Class of 2020 banner for the middle of Basking Ridge, celebratory lawn signs for each graduate, and illuminating Lee Field on Friday nights at 8:20 p.m. for 20 minutes in recognition of the Class 2020.