PISCATAWAY, NJ — To the sounds of honking horns, cheering families, and congratulations from school administrators, the students of Piscataway High School’s Class of 2020 officially graduated on Wednesday, but not in the traditional sense.
Since district schools were closed to in-person attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic, and high school Seniors turned to virtual instruction to complete the academic requirements needed to graduate, school officials had to get creative with this year’s commencement exercises hosting a first-ever drive-thru ceremony in the parking lot at PHS.
“It’s a great day today. I thought it was going to snow, but it didn’t,” Principal Jason Lester joked as he and other school officials donned face masks and sterile gloves before leaning towards the cars of almost 600 Seniors to hand them their diplomas, officially marking the end of their high school careers.
“This really came off better than I thought it would,” said Lester about the drive-thru concept that required families to stay in their cars as they drove up to the outdoor stage when the Seniors’ names were called.
“I’m really pleased with all the young people coming out and helping to support,” he continued. “We had great support from the town and the board of education with pulling it together in support of these young people. I’m very happy.”
Under an executive order signed by Governor Phil Murphy, large group gatherings like traditional graduation ceremonies were prohibited to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, holding the district’s annual commencement service at Rutgers Athletic Center was no longer an option for the Class of 2020.
As state mandates continued to change, ultimately allowing for a drive-thru concept, Superintendent, Dr. Frank Ranelli said the district considered seven different plans to honor the hard work of the graduates. This includes a virtual graduation that is still scheduled to air on the district website at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday complete with the speeches and presentations normally expected at a commencement.
“We thought this would be the best way to celebrate Piscataway, our town,” said Ranelli. “I didn’t want to go into early July with this. Some schools in Middlesex County are waiting until the end of July to hold their commencements. God forbid there’s a family that’s able to take a vacation, then they would have to pick [between the two].”
“For everybody’s work, I really appreciate it. Congratulations to the Class of 2020,” said Ranelli.
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