NEWTON, NJ – With all the challenges facing high school senior students, their families and educators, graduation is probably at the top of the list. Newton High School will begin their graduation ceremonies on Monday at the Sussex County Fairgrounds.
“I want to acknowledge first how difficult this school closure situation has been for all involved,” Superintendent Kennedy Greene said. “Needless to say, we are very disappointed that our seniors will not have the opportunity to participate in the same ceremony as the classes that came before them. Obviously that is beyond our control both from a health standpoint and from the Governor’s executive orders and official interpretations of them.”
Beginning Monday, graduates and their parents are invited participate in creating a video of the ceremony, referred to as a “virtual core” ceremony. They will be filming “various elements of the ceremony including speeches, presentations and the receipt of diplomas,” according to Greene.
Greene said this option was chosen because with all the frequent changes coming from the state they wanted to be sure to get at least this video done.
“The latest guidance from New Jersey Department of Education provided last week as interpreted and updated by officials as recently as Saturday confirms that a core built around a virtual graduation is the closest to a sure thing,” Greene said.
Some parents were not happy they only received notice Friday afternoon and evening that filming would take place on Monday and Tuesday.
Greene said, high school administrators “have contacted every family by phone to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of the process.”
Parents have the opportunity to hand their students the diploma, according to parents. Greene said they did this because they “felt is was a nice touch to involve them so directly. “
He said they thought having administrators place the diploma on the table and step away for the student to pick it up was “impersonal and too focused on the limitations of the pandemic and less on the graduate.”
Parents were told if they hand out the diploma they did not have to wear a mask, according to a senior's mother.
The school district’s “fortunate, great relationship with former Newton Police Chief Mike Richards,” has helped them devise a plan that allows the video to be created while keeping with the state guidelines. Richards is the manager of the fairgrounds.
Greene said authorities prohibited the filming from happening inside the school, as originally planned. They moved to the fairgrounds because they did not want to worry about weather issues.
Students will be wearing their cap and gowns for the filming. They had to go to the school last week to retrieve them from tables set up outside the school's main office, parents said.
On June 8 at 10 a.m. the high school will be hosting a “drive-by wave parade” in the driveway around the school, according to Greene. Staff members will be parked in the vehicles around the school and wave to the students and parents as they drive around the school, Greene said.
The Newton Police will have a presence at this event to ensure compliance with the latest government directives.
Greene said administrators are also weighing other options “including something in-person” as allowed by Governor Murphy after July 6 but the video is the “main event."