Dear Governor Murphy,
I have the pleasure to serve as the President of the Holmdel Board of Education. As you can imagine, members of our community are requesting that we do whatever we can to advocate in favor of a live graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 and their families. They fully understand that a graduation ceremony would need to be operated in a manner that conforms with the socially-distant guidelines set forth in the Executive Orders you have issued, but are unclear why we can go to the beach but not mark an important event in their family history.
I understand your concerns about reversing the efforts that have been expended to blunt the trajectory of the COVID virus. However, I am hopeful we can try to resume a bit of normalcy as we come out of this lockdown by allowing our children engage in a socially-distant graduation ceremony.
In Holmdel, we have the benefit of a tremendous amount of open space. If permitted, we could plan a live graduation ceremony consistent with your guidelines. For other communities, I would imagine that there are open spaces that are usually used for sporting events that could be used for this purpose because they are not being used presently for sporting events. I recall my law school graduation at the Arts Center in Holmdel – it was one of the most memorable days of my entire life! I think venues like the Arts Center provides perfect locations for graduation ceremonies in a socially distant manner.
I would, therefore, ask you to reconsider the limitation imposed upon schools to limit graduation to virtual ceremonies and allow schools to develop live ceremonies that conform with socially-distance guidelines. I believe that limiting ceremonies to students, their immediate family members and school personnel, all of whom would be seated in a manner to maintain social distance protocols, could make for a memorable experience. Everyone should be required to wear masks. We could make sure that hand sanitizers are available. I would, respectfully, request that you allow a school like Holmdel to give it a try – maybe even in our backyard at the Arts Center. I know the principals of our High School and Middle School will do whatever they can to make it work. They are busily preparing for a virtual graduation ceremony, but if allowed, they would plan for a memorable live ceremony.
A graduation ceremony is an important landmark in all of our lives. The ceremonial portion of the graduation not only provides students with an opportunity to recognize their accomplishments, the pomp and circumstance associated with the ceremony sets the tone of hope for graduates as they embark upon their future pursuits. We need tradition more than ever to bring us together as a community.
It is also important for both students and parents alike to mark these traditions as a family. In writing this message to you, the memories of my eighth grade graduation came flooding back to me. My mother had unfortunately passed away a few months before my graduation ceremony, and I recall the anxiety I felt in the days leading up to my graduation as I was quite nervous about having to give a valedictorian speech on that day. That sadness dissipated when I concluded my speech. I will never forget the support I received on that day from my fellow graduates, their parents, my extended family and members of the community in their applause when I recognized my mother during my valedictorian speech – it brought a tremendous amount of happiness and relief because I realized I was not alone and I had support from so many people in my life. That moment was very important to carry me on in my life as I continued to celebrate important events in my life without my mother. Thinking about it today made me even more sad for those students of the Class of 2020 throughout our State who will miss this opportunity to celebrate graduation with their parents.
I implore you to please allow these students an opportunity to mark their accomplishment with their moms and dads. We can make it work. Please let us try.
Thank you, Vicky Flynn