UPDATE: This morning Dr. John Ravally met with members of his administration to discuss this year's graduation ceremonies in light of the new directive from Governor Murphy and guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education, according to school officials. 

In addition to Franklin High School's class of 2020 virtual celebration, the district will also hold live outdoor events that will comply with current and future social distancing rules. The events will take place during the week of July 13, and more details will be forthcoming, according to school officials. 

SOMERSET, NJ - With the closure of schools through the end of the academic year due to the COVID-19 crisis and a "stay at home" order still in place, Franklin High School Principal, Frank Chmiel announced in a letter the district's plan to provide a hybrid virtual reality commencement celebration.

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"The first part of our Graduation activities has to do with physically visiting the Franklin High School campus," Chmiel wrote in his letter. "We have heard the voices of our Franklin High School students, who desire to come back even for a small portion of the commencement activities."

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FHS alum, Queena Bergan will perform original spoken word pieces to the graduates, and a 360-degree camera will record portions of the class of 2020 commencement inside FHS. 

"The final part of the Commencement will be a video of speeches by the Class of 2020 Class President, Valedictorian, Salutatorian, Principal, and a distinguished FHS Alumni guest speaker, who will provide the keynote speech," Chmiel wrote. "The video will include a multitude of special effects and music, highlights from the Class of 2020’s high school years, and performances by members of the Franklin High School Choir."

The plan still needs to be approved by local government officials, according to Chmiel.  

The full text can be read below:

The Class of 2020 Goes Back to School! Inside Franklin High School’s Hybrid - Virtual Reality Commencement 

Hello Franklin High School Family:

I sincerely hope that this message finds you and yours in a state of solid health and relative happiness.

The intent of this letter is to explain and generate excitement about how Franklin High School will be celebrating its Class of 2020 Commencement.

Sadly, many of the hallmarks of Senior year have had to be cancelled or postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine. Even though this situation has been very frustrating, we have noticed many examples of our Seniors demonstrating understanding, positivity, and selfless kindness toward each other, their school, and the Franklin Community. We are as proud of our prospective graduates as ever, and we are striving to give them a memorable commencement experience.

The first part of our Graduation activities has to do with physically visiting the Franklin High School campus. We have heard the voices of our Franklin High School students, who desire to come back even for a small portion of the commencement activities.

The Class of 2020 will be scheduled with individual appointment times according to where their names are in the alphabet from June 8th – June 19th, a two-week period. For the safety of all involved, there will be no more than 10 students with their family members in vehicles coming to the campus per hour. They should arrive on the Franklin High School campus via the Heller Park entrance to campus and should be wearing their caps and gowns. Caps and gowns will be mailed home to students as soon as they arrive at the end of May/beginning of June.

Upon reaching the FHS Campus, students and their families should follow the direction of Franklin High School Safety Officers, Franklin Township Police Officers, and Franklin High School Administrators. Then, the following will occur.

1. Vehicles will be directed from the Heller Park campus entrance toward the bus loop/horseshoe driveway at the front of Franklin High School where they will form a line.

2. In one vehicle at a time, a student will go along the driveway to drop off school property in a bag at one station (Station A). Please put all items to be returned to the school in one plastic bag and clearly label the bag with the graduate’s name.

3. Then, the graduate will be directed to drive to another location along the bus loop where the graduate will depart from his/her vehicle wearing cap and gown and be photographed picking up his/her diploma cover at Station B.

4. Our Franklin High School photographers will photograph the graduate receiving his/her diploma cover. Note: The actual diploma will be sent home at a later date.

5. The photos captured at the diploma cover pick-up will be used to make an individualized, virtual graduation video available to each member of the Class of 2020. This will become available during the summer.

6. After having his/her photos taken, the graduate will pick-up a hand-packaged Class of 2020 gift box that includes a Class of 2020 t-shirt, keychain, and a Virtual Reality Headset, which segues into what we feel is going to make Franklin High School’s 2020 Commencement truly special.

The Class of 2020 and their families will be able to view a portion of the Commencement in Virtual Reality!

With the use of a 360-degree camera, a variety of student speakers along with a celebrity guest speaker, Queena Bergen, will be performing pieces of an original spoken-word written by Queena herself. Queena, FHS Class of 2012, is a virtuoso in spoken word and was the winner of a major national competition sponsored by prAna, a sustainable clothing company. Queena has written this particular spoken word in honor of the FHS Class of 2020. In addition, Queena is donating the unique Franklin Warrior packaging for the Senior gifts and even packing the gift boxes herself!

The 360-degree camera will record this portion of the Class of 2020 Commencement inside Franklin High School and on various areas of the FHS Campus. Class of 2020 members viewing the presentation will feel as if they are actually there! They will be able to look around with the Virtual Reality Headsets and see a 360-degree panoramic view of the various locations on the Franklin High School Campus.

The final part of the Commencement will be a video of speeches by the Class of 2020 Class President, Valedictorian, Salutatorian, Principal, and a distinguished FHS Alumni guest speaker, who will provide the keynote speech. The video will include a multitude of special effects and music, highlights from the Class of 2020’s high school years, and performances by members of the Franklin High School Choir.

The full extent of the plan awaits final approval by the local government. Rest assured that everyone involved in the physical portion of the Commencement will be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and observing physical distancing. Family members will need to remain in the vehicle and are to be limited to no more than four (4), in addition to the graduate. The family members are invited to take pictures of the graduate from their vehicle. Looking toward the near future, when physical distancing guidelines are lifted, families will be able to come to the Franklin High School Campus to take additional pictures with their graduate in his/her cap and gown.

To our Class of 2020, their families, and to our larger Franklin Community, the Franklin High School Graduation Team has been working wholeheartedly doing everything in its power to honor our Senior graduates. Our hearts go out to them. We feel how important Senior year is, and to have so many of the hallmarks of the year taken away is tragic. It is our hope that the combination of in-person experience, the array of Class of 2020 gifts including the VR headset, and unique, hybrid Virtual Reality Graduation experience will demonstrate our commitment to the Class of 2020.

Your principal,

Frank Chmiel

 

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