WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange High School (WOHS) Class of 2020 graduated on Thursday, July 9 on Suriano Field spaced six feet apart from their friends and other classmates.

Due to the 500-person limit dictated by the state of New Jersey for outdoor gatherings, three separate commencement ceremonies were held, and graduates were only allowed to bring two people as guests.

Despite needing to maintain “COVID conscious” behavior, WOHS Principal Hayden Moore congratulated everyone for remaining “West Orange strong” and said that this was still a celebratory occasion meant to show another way that he, high school staff, Superintendent Dr. J. Scott Cascone, and the West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE) support and care for the graduating class.

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To ensure everyone’s safety, each ceremony lasted less than 40 minutes and speeches were only given by Moore, Cascone, and WOBOE President Ken Alper.

Cascone asked graduates to focus on the “here and now,” instead of being preoccupied with what will be coming down the road because of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Each and every one of you should feel tremendously proud of the accomplishment that you have made and you have so many things to look forward to,” he said, continuing that that the commencement ceremony is a “rite of passage into adulthood.”

“We know that you are the future; we know that you will do amazing things; we know that you will never forget where you came from, what you learned here or the people who molded you into the young adults you have become,” Alper said addressing the graduates. “Keep making us proud. Keep taking care of one another. Keep standing up for what’s right and always remember, you set the tone.”

After the ceremony, TAPinto West Orange spoke with the Board President to get his perspective as the parent of Nathaniel Alper, a Class of 2020 graduate.

“As a parent, we’ve been looking forward to this day for so long and of course, it’s nothing like what we expected,” Alper said, “but it’s still so great that we’re able to do this and give some closure to this year and show how proud we are of these kids who’ve been through so much and accomplished so much.”

When asked about his experience during his first graduation ceremony as superintendent of West Orange schools, Cascone said that he felt “gratified.”

“Seeing the kids, seeing their smiles, seeing their parents’ smiles, that to me was worth it,” he said. “And I think that’s something you’re obviously not going to get in a virtual ceremony.”

He added that he liked the idea of having the commencement ceremony on the football field and might be an idea to consider for future ceremonies.

“I think there’s a certain something to doing it on your high school site, so I would definitely consider going back to the stadium graduation.”

Both the virtual and in-person graduation ceremonies are available to watch on YouTube and the in-person ceremony will be broadcast on TV 36/45 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30 p.m.