VERONA, NJ - With Governor Murphy’s May 26 announcement that in-person, socially-distanced graduations could now take place, parents and loved ones of the Verona High School class of 2020 anxiously awaited news. With virtual graduation activities slated to start Wednesday, May 27, many wondered if a new, live graduation would take their place.

Not exactly. Verona High School is moving ahead with its virtual celebration--but is planning a live ceremony as well. “We are moving ahead with virtual plans we had already made, in an effort to make the moment as special as possible,” said Superintendent Rui Dionisio at a call-in Board of Education meeting Tuesday night. “We know the students were upset that they couldn’t have a traditional ceremony. But we also have students, parents, and even the families of some of those students who have factors that make them immunocompromised, and who are concerned about a live ceremony.” 

The virtual ceremony has individual students going on the field at certain appointed times, and being recorded. These clips would be edited together for a presentation that would be made available on YouTube and Facebook live on June 19. Some parents feel as though this is the safest option, particularly if there are at-risk individuals in the family.

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Gloria Dostal Machnowski, whose daughter is graduating this year, said "We are very pleased with the graduation plans...the school administration did the right thing. They gathered suggestions from parents and students via surveys to come up with a nice way to celebrate while maintaining safe social distance. Showing respect and protecting others is the highest priority, and the VHS community is doing exactly that."

As for an in person ceremony, it would be slated for post-July 6, as per Governor Murphy’s edict. “We are awaiting specific guidelines from the state’s Department of Education--they are forthcoming,” Dr. Dionisio continued. “We will begin planning for a ceremony in summer as soon as we know those parameters. We will then share that with the parents.” 

Many students will be overjoyed to hear this. According to a Survey Monkey survey sent to graduating seniors, of the 90 that responded, almost 60% were open to having a second ceremony in case the state’s restrictions were lifted. Neighboring Cedar Grove has announced a graduation ceremony to take place on July 8, with further information and guidance to come. 

Some parents in Verona feel that a solid plan should be announced for their children as well. Nick Frank, parent of a VHS senior, was unimpressed with the new announcement, believing that Dr. Dionisio “...should have offered tentative dates for a meaningful, safe graduation ceremony...Cedar Grove is moving forward with a ceremony. What’s the hold up with Verona?” His son, senior Austin Frank, was at first discouraged by the virtual ceremony, but is happier now that he knows an in person graduation will be happening sometime over the summer. “While the information may have been a little vague, I am content with the outcome and looking forward to the future,” he said.

Diane Sposato, mother to a senior, agrees that the students should have a live ceremony with the whole class. “They need to get the kids together one last time to celebrate. I’ve endured sick parents and the sudden death of one, and I speak on behalf of many parents who would like the pride and joy of seeing their kids go through this milestone one last time together.”

Now, Verona residents will just have to wait until summer to see what that will look like.

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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