WESTFIELD, NJ — Graduation plans for Westfield public schools have not been finalized as the district awaits updated guidance from the state, school officials said this week.

“WHS administration continues to work with seniors, teachers and parents on June 23 virtual graduation as they await updated guidance from Governor Murphy,” district spokesperson Mary Ann McGann said in a statement to TAPinto Westfield. “The high school continues to communicate directly with families.”

Superintendent Margaret Dolan said during the virtual school board meeting Tuesday night that graduation remains a “work in progress.”

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“I think we’re up to plan P and Q. We’ve been through all kinds of plans, virtual and/or not,” Dolan said. “The main thing we’re waiting for there is what the guidance will be by June 23.”

In the meantime, Dolan said, students, parents, and teachers have all given their input.

“I have to say the seniors have stepped up, they’re in communication with Principal [Mary] Asfendis. The parents have been tremendous and creative, also understanding that there are some things we are not allowed to do,” Dolan said. “The teachers have been tremendous, and they’re trying to do everything they can to support the graduates.”

What is Currently Planned?

Despite uncertainty surrounding the graduation ceremony, the district has planned and is working on several commemorative events for graduates that are set to take place in the coming weeks.

“It is a timeline, and things are staggered, so that seniors will have something … every week from now until their graduation,” Dolan said. This timeline includes both announced and surprise events, she said.

“We have a number of things that are planned, the [lawn] signs will be put out to houses, and there are one or two surprises that will go forward,” Dolan said.

Senior lawn signs are expected to be delivered to high school seniors on May 27, and PTOs at other schools are working on lawn signs for kindergarten, 5th and 8th grade students, McGann told TAPinto Westfield.

A virtual awards ceremony is planned for seniors at the end of May, and caps and gowns will be distributed June 8, McGann said. More information about the drive-thru pickup of caps and gowns will be shared as the date approaches, she said.

Reactions from the Board

Board member Gretchan Ohlig, who is the parent of a graduating Westfield senior, thanked the district and the Westfield High School PTSO for their work.

“Everyone’s working towards trying to create as special as possible an event for our seniors,” Ohlig said. “I have a high school senior. It’s incredibly sad and disappointing that it’s not going to look like we all knew it would. And I don’t mean to detract from that in any way, [but] safety has to be first.”

Board member Brendan Galligan cautioned the public against believing rumors about what other towns are planning for their graduates.

“A lot of ‘what other towns are doing’ were optimistic plans before the state gave firm guidance against doing certain activities,” Galligan said. “What’s in the rumor mill is not actually what other districts are doing. It’s what they had hoped to do at one point.”

“[Schools] are not holding graduations in the park, they’re not doing drive-bys,” he added. “They’re not doing a lot of things that the rumor mill says they are doing.”

In the midst of the uncertainty, board President Peggy Oster said students are continuing to thrive.

“We still see our students achieving, doing well in school, [and] doing great things for the school and for their community,” Oster said.

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