Newark, NJ High School Graduations Held At County & State Parks

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Newark, NJ High School Graduations Held At County & State Parks

Today, May 4, 2020, the Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, made the executive decision of closing schools down for the remainder of the school year (2019-2020). This decision also affects many senior events, including the graduation commencement ceremonies, which typically takes place in June. The Governor also made the executive decision of reopening our state and county parks, including golf courses last weekend.

The class of 2020 worked hard for 12 years to at least receive some sort of celebratory recognition that is not virtual. Our senior trips, prom, dinner, etc have all been canceled due to the pandemic. The one thing that we can try to make possible would be our senior graduation. 

Statistically, the number of COVID-19 patients and deaths has drastically decreased since last month. The Governor has made a detailed action plan in reopening the state slowly because everything seems to be heading in a positive direction.  

With this in mind, we as the class of 2020 have also made a plan on how our graduation ceremonies can still be held in person for the city of Newark. The following would be the steps needed to pull this off: 

Step 1: Each high school in the city of Newark has a set date on when they want their graduation to begin. These ceremonies will then be set a week apart from one another to ensure the spread of the virus is contained. Ceremonies will begin in late May and should be able to be finished no later than late July. 

Step 2: The County and State parks would be the venue for these ceremonies as they offer plenty of space necessary to ensure social distancing rules would be followed. Graduation setups at the parks would be done by each individual school and its volunteers, who are healthy.

Step 3: The graduations would be done by the different wards. Only 1 graduation can be done per week per ward. For example, if Barringer High graduates on May 30th in the North Ward/ Branch Brook Park then Technology High can not graduate until the following week. But Malcolm X Shabazz could graduate on May 30th but in the South Ward/ Weequahic park.  

Step 4: Each graduation will have tickets for each family. These tickets will be no more than 3 per family. No student will be allowed to sell or trade off tickets. To ensure this, seats would be heavily monitored to make sure there are no more than 3 family members to a section. 

Step 5: Seating arrangements would have to be done by each family. There will be no more than 3 seats available per family. The seats would be separated 6-7 ft. in length and width to ensure the spread is contained. 

Step 6: As fever is one of the COVID-19 symptoms, Police officers would have to use smart thermometers to ensure no civilian enters the graduation with any possible symptoms. If anyone has a temperature higher than 98 °F then you will be prohibited to enter the graduation.  

Step 7: If a school has a graduating class of over 150 students then the graduation ceremony would have to be divided throughout the day (i.e Donald M. Payne Sr. Tech in Newark, NJ has CTEs, so the Business & Law senior graduates would graduate earlier in the day than the Fashion & Music graduating seniors would). No more than 150 students can graduate at a time to ensure that the number of guests will not be so significant. 

Step 8: The graduation ceremonies will require all guests, students, and faculty to wear both masks and gloves. Without both of these items on you would be prohibited to view the ceremony in person. 

Step 9: For the family members who would not be able to attend the physical graduation, each graduation should be broadcasted live to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to observe such a significant moment. Even if a child can not attend due to health issues the child's name would still be presented as if they were still physically there.

Step 10: When entering and leaving the ceremonies it should be done in an orderly fashion. No one should have to pile on top of one another as we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Newark police and County sheriffs should be available to assist in this process. 

Step 11: No graduation should last no more than 2 hours. Also once the ceremony is finished students and families would have to clear out the area within 15 minutes to ensure that the spread of this virus is not as significant.

With these 11 steps, this should be more than enough to ensure every school in the city of Newark would be able to have a proper and well-deserved graduation ceremony.  

The reason why most seniors frown upon a graduation ceremony being canceled is the fact that they have worked hard and received countless college acceptances & scholarships, just to have everything terminated. Over 12 years of obtaining an education, high school seniors feel distraught, unencouraged, and left with no hopes of being honored. With the cancellation of senior events, it is only right that we respect the COVID-19 guidelines and still be able to have a well put together and thought out graduation ceremony.

Most seniors are not staying in-state after their senior year is completed. College move-in day typically happens in August and many students have enlisted in the military. They would leave for boot camp or college during the summer. This would mean they would miss out on the opportunity for attending their graduation. Regardless of COVID-19, high school seniors are going on their own paths to start their promising career paths. 

This graduation ceremony will not be mandatory. We understand that everyone has different health issues and situations at home. We ask that any senior with severe medical issues make you vulnerable to COVID-19 stay home as you will still be honored as if you were physically there. 

If the Governor of New Jersey or the Mayor of Newark has any additional comments for this proposal in order to make the Class of 2020, Newark High School Graduations,  possible then feel free to make those changes. 

For the most part, this is one of the best proposals to make senior graduation possible for the Class of 2020 !

Written by: Nekeisha D. & Angel W.