SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ – It’s a day that many people thought would never come, but Graduation Day takes place on Wednesday, July 8, beginning at 6:00 p.m.
It’s a “members only” affair. No parents, no extended family, just 390 grads and three doctors on call (Dr. David Heisey, principal; Dr. Joan Mast, superintendent; and BOE President Dr. Karen Kulikowski).
There will be no adult speakers, the valedictorian and salutatorian, who spoke during the online graduation ceremony, and class president Christopher Muskus will be recognized. The seniors will switch the tassels, throw their hats in the air, and then go home.
As happy as the seniors will be to pass this milestone, principal Dr. David Heisey is equally thrilled.
“We had all been anxiously waiting for the increase of the outside maximum gathering of 500 individuals. I was thrilled when the governor announced that,” said Dr. Heisey in an interview with TAPintoSPF.
I’m happy for the kids, that they can be together and graduate as a class. If you had asked me at the end of May, and I would have said it was very unlikely that we would have a graduation ceremony. I had to relay that information to the families, and it wasn’t popular,” he said. “I’m excited that we can close the school year and their experience of at Scotch Plains Fanwood High school.”
Students will be required to wear masks and will practice social distancing. Usually, the seating takes up half of the football field, but the chairs will be socially distant and will take up almost the entire football field.
“We spread things out based on the measurements,” Dr. Heisey said.
Seniors will organize in the high school parking lot and Evergreen field. They will walk in and be social distanced. The event will be live-streamed, and a photographer will take a picture of every kid (mask briefly removed) on stage.
“It will resemble every other graduation of past years, except that there will be no spectators and fewer people on stage. Students will pick up the diploma and instead of having it handed to them,” Dr. Heisey explained.
Dr. Heisey said the plan was developed with feedback from kids/parents. The majority was in favor of all students graduating at the same time with no parents. The 390 total falls well within Governor Murphy’s guidelines. Having just one parent each would have surpassed the restriction of 500 max. The principal admits he is glad the day has come.
“It has been a challenge for everyone, and the ink won’t even be dry on the diplomas when we begin the plan for school in the fall,” Dr. Heisey said. “It has been a very challenging school year. As do the students, they also will continue to face challenges.”
“The most challenging part is the unknown, and the circumstances change. We are hoping that we don’t have a second spike,” Dr. Heisey said. “I can’t say I’ve reflected on it, but this year will be up there among the most challenging, for sure. However, I will always remember the Class of 2020, and I say that in a positive way. They’ve handled it very well.”
Dr. Heisey, the father of three children, understands parents’ frustration and their sense of loss.
“They want their children to experience everything other seniors had,” he said. “This class is going to be stronger and more successful because they’ve faced great challenges and faced them well. They know that they will come out on top.”
The principal and the administration must now turn the calendar ahead and begin planning for the reopening of school in September, including academics, sports, curricular activities, and other facets of the high school experience.
“What we want and what we are able to do may be two separate things,” Dr. Heisey said.
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