Video, parade planned for Class of 2020

Ellie Kim, Managing Editor

A hybrid graduation will be held on June 16, Superintendent Erik Gundersen announced in an email to the students and parents of the Class of 2020 Friday afternoon.

A video of graduates walking across a stage with a diploma will be created and include pre-filmed graduation speeches. Appointments will be made for graduates and their immediate families to come to PV and take a photo wearing their cap and gown to be featured in the video. 

“There will still be words from the principal, myself, the valedictorian, the salutatorian, there will be students who are speaking, and then also a recognition of each and every single graduating senior,” Gundersen said. 

There will also include a parade of cars which will go throughout the community and end in the school’s parking lot. At the end of the parade, socially distanced faculty, staff, and administration will cheer students on and Interim Principal John Puccio will give each graduate a “diploma.”

With everything that’s going on, obviously what’s in [the district’s] control is limited, but I do think that they did a good job under the circumstances”

— Dani Menendez, secretary of the Senior Class Council

“With everything that’s going on, obviously what’s in [the district’s] control is limited, but I do think that they did a good job under the circumstances,” said Dani Menendez, secretary of the Senior Class Council. 

Menendez said that while the email sent on Friday provided seniors with “an overview” of what graduation will look like, many were upset by the announcement that all graduates would wear a green gown with a white stole. Traditionally, boys wear green gowns and girls wear white gowns for graduation. 

“[The decision] was kind of just sprung on us,” Menendez said. “We found out just this week that we’re wearing green. For the last four years, at least for the last three months of quarantine, we were still wearing white for whenever graduation was. It was upsetting, but with everything else that’s going on, for that to be the most upsetting thing, I guess it’s kind of a win in a sense.”

The announcement came following confusion caused by an email sent on May 7 that Gundersen initially released to parents and students who had “made it abundantly clear they want an in-person graduation.” The email stated the district’s intention to have an in-person graduation ceremony if the “the law at that time” allowed for it and if it met social distancing requirements. 

“We [originally] thought we could even split up graduation into three or four separate graduation ceremonies to have enough space to provide students with a little bit of a traditional experience,” Gundersen said. 

The email led to backlash and various community members voicing their opinions on the possibility of an in-person graduation ceremony on Facebook. A post displaying strong opposition to the idea was made by PV alum Hana Shapiro and was met with responses from the Class of 2020. The situation is being “handled and investigated” by Puccio, Gundersen said in an interview. Puccio did not make himself available for comment. 

We just have to remember that this is a difficult time for a lot of people and everybody needs to cut everyone just a little bit of slack.”

— District Superintendent Erik Gundersen

“I think that everybody has to remember that, regardless of what your opinions are, emotions are high right now,” Gundersen said in an interview. “We just have to remember that this is a difficult time for a lot of people and everybody needs to cut everyone just a little bit of slack.”

While the district originally intended to organize an in-person ceremony, the State Department of Education announced on May 8 that “only virtual graduation ceremonies can be planned” due to gatherings of individuals for parties, celebrations, and other social events being prohibited.

“It’s exactly what most seniors don’t want,” Gundersen said. “They want to be able to get together on a field and celebrate, but we can’t do that. We simply aren’t allowed to.”

While some schools in Bergen County had released plans prior to the governor’s announcement on May 8 to have a graduation ceremony in July and August, it is still against the law for the school to hold a traditional graduation ceremony and a senior prom later in the year. 

“Senior prom is organized and run by the school district,” Gundersen said. “There’s nothing that prevents parents or students from getting together at some venue, but you certainly can’t call it a senior prom.”

Gundersen said the district is “trying to keep things simple and flexible” and will continue to plan accordingly with guidelines provided by the state. 

“My heart breaks for the seniors,” Gundersen said. “Senior year, especially the end of senior year, is like a right of passage. You’ve worked for 13 years in school and it’s an opportunity to reminisce, celebrate, be together with your friends and fellow students, and be recognized for all the hard work you’ve put in. That’s being taken away from them and that’s a hard thing to take.”