Bayonne Superintendent of Schools John Niesz has updated residents on the state of graduation ceremonies in a June 3 letter to all high school seniors, eighth graders, and parents.
Niesz announced two graduation options.
“The Class of 2020 has lost out on many precious memories of senior year, and we want to celebrate them in every way we can,” Niesz said. “We will carry on with our graduation celebration plans.
A virtual ceremony will take place on June 24 at 8 p.m. for all high school students. All graduations can be viewed at bboed.org at anytime after the graduation date, according to Niesz.
There will also be a drive-in commemoration beginning on June 23. The ceremony will adhere to Gov. Phil Murphy’s guidelines for what will be allowed for outdoor ceremonies.
Guidelines for outdoor ceremonies
The guidelines dictate that ceremonies must take place outside rain or shine with no indoor ceremonies. There should be limited contact among attendees, excluding immediate family, with recommendations for awarding diplomas electronically.
Murphy’s guidelines dictate that the district must determine the minimum number of staff and faculty necessary to facilitate commencement ceremonies and adjust attendance requirements accordingly.
Face coverings are “strongly encouraged,” and anyone who is sick or showing symptoms may not attend.
The drive-in graduations include all students and take place at Stephen Gregg Park at 930 JFK Blvd.
“While these restrictions will impact our planning and what the ceremony will ultimately look like, we must follow these guidelines in order to hold a drive-in ceremony,” Niesz said. “We share your disappointment that our graduates will not have the same graduation experience as others before them.”
Niesz said he feels the same frustration many parents do over the “inconsistency from state officials on what type of graduation ceremony will be allowed.”
Niesz said the decision was a collaborative effort, made in consultation with the elected High School Student Council, Board of Education President and Vice President, Mayor Davis, Police Chief, Fire Chief, medical professionals, school district attorneys, insurance carriers, and the Bayonne Office of Emergency Management Coordinator.
“The elected High School Student Council students requested two types of graduations, and I am pleased to say we were able to provide two types of graduations,” Niesz said. “As a member of the COVID-19 task force for the City of Bayonne, I can attest that this decision was very difficult. However, we also understand the importance of protecting ourselves and our loved ones from the spread of COVID-19.”
Although this year’s graduation will look very different from previous years, Niesz said he will ensure the Class of 2020 will receive the best possible graduation experience that can be provided under these restrictions.
According to Niesz, information will be forthcoming from each building principal regarding details for the virtual graduation on June 24 and June 25 and the drive-in graduation beginning June 23.
“The Class of 2020 will forever hold a special place in our hearts,” Niesz said. “They are strong, and we know they will continue to shine wherever their paths may lead.”
If there is a change in the graduation protocol issued from Murphy or the New Jersey Department of Education, Niesz said that the district will change plans if needed.
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