Governor’s graduation ceremony limit works for some districts, but not much help for others

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SHARON SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he is now allowing outdoor graduation ceremonies with a maximum attendance of 150 guests.

While that will work for the smaller districts across the Capital Region, some of the larger school districts are still brainstorming ways to ensure some sort of celebration for their students.

The Governor’s announcement was welcome news for students, staff and families within the Sharon Springs Central School District. They have 15 graduating seniors this year, which will essentially allow them to have a traditional ceremony complete with speeches and an audience. The only difference will be that it’s held outdoors.

“We had been planning on some type of combination drive-thru graduation or virtual graduation, but this is a whole lot better for us,” said Superintendent Patterson Green.

Green said they plan to hold the ceremony on the front lawn of the school on the evening of Friday, June 26. They’re hoping to allow up to seven or eight family members per student while still having enough space for some teachers and staff. Masks will be provided, and seats will be at least six feet apart.

Green said their plans will need a final stamp of approval from the state and county health departments.

“I think we’re taking enough precautions that based on what the Governor released yesterday, it should be approved,” said Green.

Unfortunately, the Governor’s announcement does not allow for all districts to hold that type of ceremony.

Shenendehowa has close to 800 graduating seniors in the 2020 class. Many districts, however, are making the best of the situation and finding ways to hold some sort of memorable graduation. The staff at Shenendehowa have developed an elaborate, well-thought-out plan to make sure their students have a meaningful celebration with the opportunity to walk across the stage in their cap and gowns.

“We’re doing the best we can with what we have,” said Ron Agostinoni, High School Principal.

On June 18, they will hold a drive-thru ceremony with one vehicle per graduate. Students have been separated into four groups of 200 and then again into five different groups of 40. They have been assigned times and will stage in the parking lots across campus until it’s their turn to drive up to the front of the high school. They’ll get out of their car, walk across the stage, get their diploma and take a quick picture with their families.

“The idea is to line the roadways when they’re approaching the school with faculty and staff to kind of wave and cheer and smile,” said Agostinoni. 

It’s expected to take about ten hours to get every vehicle through, with a few breaks in between. The procession will start at 8 a.m. and all vehicles must have a valid pass. 

Students were also given “Shen”-branded masks as part of their graduation gifts to wear on the day of. The entire ceremony, including pre-recorded speeches, will be live streamed for family members who can’t be there. They will also be broadcasting the ceremony on a local FM radio station so families can listen in their vehicles as they wait. 

The district hired a local company to set up cameras and massive screens so that families can also watch students walk across the stage as they sit in their vehicles in each of the staging parking lots. 

“We hope it’s really nice for our graduates. They’ve been through quite a bit, and we want to make sure they’re excited and they enjoy the day,” said Agostinoni. 

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