HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Mayor Doug Tomson, and Millstone Mayor Raymond Heck sent a proposal to the Board of Education Wednesday outlining a scaled-back, full-day graduation ceremony on June 22 at Mountainview Park for seniors in the class of 2020.
The plan would require each senior to arrive at the park at a pre-determined time; wait in line with other vehicles and as they neared the stage, exit their car, wait in a line - social distancing will be enforced - walk across the stage, receive a diploma jacket, pose for a picture, and exit the other side of the stage, where their family vehicle would be waiting to pick them up.
Each senior's name wpud be announced through a public address system on the trailer.
Only one vehicle per student would be permitted.
The mayors estimate it would take one minute for each student to be recognized.
The three-page letter includes another 3 pages of aerial photos of Mountainview Park, with arrows indicating the traffic pattern that would be adhered to.and a fourth page with specifications for the Somerset County portable Showmobile detailing the sound system and other information.
The letter from Tomson and Heck is addressed to Dr. Lisa Antunes, school superintendent; Karen Bingert, Hillsborough High School principal; Dr. Lorraine A. Soisson, president off the Board of Education and the other eight members of the board.
Tomson and Heck suggest school officials conduct an online survey with the students to determine how many would be interested in participating to help facilitate planning.
Staff from the Board of Education met with the township's Office of Emergency Management on Thursday to discuss the possibility of a graduation ceremony, according to Tomson, "but there is nothing on paper," he said..
The mayor said he had received a response Soisson Wednesday, saying the board intended to meet today with the township OEM.
Efforts to reach Soisson were unsuccessful.
"I want to emphasize there are not going to be two competing plans," Tomson said. "This is one event for the kids graduating from Hillsborough High School. Everyone agrees that this is an important -day for our students, and I'm sure the Committee and the School Board look forward to providing a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for our kids,"
The letter from Tomson and Heck reads:
"We understand that during the COVID-19 pandemic decisions as to how public events and reopening ur community remain fluid with the daily changes to the restrictions and additional guidance from the Governor's office. That withstanding, it is our strong belief that the graduation class of 2020, who as you recall most were born during the darkness of 9-11m deserve an in-person, albeit modified graduation ceremony.
"It is further our strong belief that we as a community can join together, as we have previously offered, to ensure this happens. Throughout the pandemic thus far, over ten weeks into this public health crisis. we have witnessed on numerous occasions the resolve of our community, the compassion of our citizens and the simple fact that when we join resources and ideas, great things, despite the restrictions can happen."
The letter further states:
"It is important for not only the students and their families to celebrate the achievement of high school graduation, but it is also important for your school community, the faculty and staff to witness annual commencement ceremonies to mark their accomplishment of another successful year.
"This year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this is all the more important for all those groups mentioned, it brings a sense of closure in this phase of the pandemic for them and for our entire community-at-large. It further illustrates to future generations that despite facing tremendous adversity during a public health crisis our resilient and BoroStrong Community cn come together and unite forces, think out of the box and celebrate achievements of our youth,
"It is no doubt that the future remains uncertain and fluid as previously stated regarding reopening the community and that includes the school community as well. That withstanding, by celebrating the Graduating Class of 2020 we are showing the younger generations that collectively we, as a community will figure it out for them."
Board member John Oliver said he had read the mayors' proposal and was "impressed."
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these kids; they are never going to get that back," Oliver said.
Oliver did say the school board was working on a plan, but would not provide details.
Township Committee member Frank DelCore, who serves as liaison to the Board of Education, said "We would like to see if there is any way we can help, perhaps provide resources that the schools don't have. "We're working with the superintendent and the board and we are committed to making something work."
"I look forward to working with the Board of Education to provide the best possible graduation for our 2020 senior class," Tomson said.