District to hold potential in-person graduation

New Jersey schools can have socially distanced outdoor ceremonies starting July

District Superintendent Erik Gundersen said a hybrid graduation is still planned for June 16, but an additional in-person ceremony may be possible following Governor Phil Murphy’s tweet Tuesday morning that schools are able to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies that comply with social distancing beginning July 6. Seniors will be called into the school starting Wednesday to film a video for a virtual graduation, and the parade on June 16 will still take place.

“You never know what can happen down the line,” Gundersen said. “There could be restrictions on gatherings, so if nothing else, students are going to have a virtual graduation ceremony that they can keep forever.”

The Star-Ledger reported that the state will release guidelines “for social distancing requirements and other necessary health and safety measures” on Wednesday. Gundersen said the district has developed plans for socially-distant ceremonies, but will not announce those plans until guidelines from the state have been given. 

Once we receive those guidelines, we are then going to modify our plans, have a conversation with the Board of Education, and then hopefully make some announcements shortly thereafter,” Gundersen said.

The district will continue to share information and new updates as they become available, according to an email Gundersen sent Tuesday morning to the district. Gundersen said in an interview that the decision to hold an in-person ceremony “really comes down to what the regulations are and how easy it is to conform to those regulations.” Interim Principal John Puccio did not respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday. 

“We’re going to have to figure out multiple graduation dates to make something like that happen,” Gundersen said. “That’s more complex than being able to do a larger group all at the same time.”

Gundersen said the district hopes to allow graduates and their parents to attend the in-person ceremony if possible. 

“I don’t think that we can expect it to be more than [graduates and parents], and that’s another reason for why the virtual graduation as well as the drive through parade is a good idea,” Gundersen said. “That allows and welcomes more people to see a graduation or something that resembles a graduation.”