WMHS graduation plan aired

May 27, 2020 by

Published May 27, 2020

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — Nothing is set in stone yet, but a plan is expected to be put forth today addressing what graduation ceremonies for the Wakefield Memorial High School class of 2020 could look like.

School Superintendent Douglas Lyons told the School Committee last night that a working group made up of students, teachers, parents and administrators has been meeting for weeks to discuss how this year’s graduation could be handled in light of the COVID-19 issue. He said that a proposed plan was going to be sent out today to students, parents and the community.

The proposal that the working group came up with, Lyons said, would involve having smaller, manageable groups of students and their parents on the Shawn F. Beasley Field to receive their diplomas over a two-day period, June 13 and 14. Graduation speeches would be filmed ahead of time, he said.

In early August, Lyons added, when restrictions may be less stringent, a larger celebration would be held for the entire class. The Senior Prom has already been rescheduled to August.

Lyons noted that a survey was done of families of seniors and a strong preference was expressed for a ceremony where the entire class of 260 students could be together. He said that some consideration was given to delaying graduation until July or August, when larger gatherings may be more feasible.

However, Lyons said that some feedback was also received pointing out that some students would not be able to attend a later graduation due to military commitments, students moving from the area, planned vacations or other reasons. Some students would not be able to attend a larger ceremony due to health reasons, Lyons added.

He noted that for a ceremony to happen in June, it would have to be in smaller groups in accordance with social distancing guidelines. He said that, as superintendent of all students, he felt an obligation not to exclude those who would be unable to attend if graduation were held later in the summer.

He said that the proposal took into account feedback from the local Health Department, state health officials and discussions with town officials like Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio.

Lyons said that the plan for the smaller group graduation ceremonies over June 13 and 14 was predicated on three factors: safety, inclusion and accessibility.

“This plan hits as many of those needs as possible,” he explained.

The superintendent said that it was “heartbreaking” to think about disappointing students by not having the entire class together at the same time for graduation, but it was also important not to exclude anyone.

Earlier in the meeting, two senior members of the Student Advisory Council, Adriana Minasian and Lily Smith had expressed disappointment with the proposed plan.

Smith said that her classmates felt that their voices had not been heard. She said that she had hoped that school leaders would be able to come up with a plan for all seniors to graduate together. Smith did say that she felt a little better knowing that a larger class celebration was planned for August.

Minasian also expressed a strong preference for the entire class to be together one last time for graduation.

“We have lost so much,” she said.

After hearing Smith’s and Minasian’s comments, Lyons said that he would check again with health officials and others today to see if there is any way that a ceremony including all 260 graduates could be held on the field. He did warn that having 260 seniors on the field could limit the number of guests that would be able to attend at the same time. He said that having parents attend in waves could make for a very lengthy ceremony.

School Committee member Thomas Markham said that there was no way to please everyone in these circumstances. But he did support an effort to reconsider the possibility of having all 260 graduates on the field at the same time.

School Committee member Suzy Veilleux said that while it may seem that nearby communities like Melrose and Lynnfield are doing more in terms of graduation ceremonies, a lot of school districts are doing much less than Wakefield.

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