(UPDATED) Few Details, But A Promise of ‘Surprises’ In The Works For Montclair High School Graduation

UPDATE: Montclair High School Anthony Grosso shared an update Thursday at 3:45 p.m.

MHS Graduation Update 5-21-2020

Plans will include the following:

  • A vehicle parade sponsored and containing vehicles by the Township, MPD, MFD, and the MBOE.
  • Parade times in each Ward will be announced.
  • Virtual Ceremony access.
  • Community wide celebration with #soundthehornMHS2020.

Verona has an elaborate plan for the Class of 2020 high school graduation that includes graduates and families coming by appointment to the Thomas J. Sellitto Athletic Field so an in-person graduation event can be recorded for a live streaming video.

West Orange has a Graduation Destination page on their website with all related events.

Montclair seniors and parents have been waiting and wondering what the MHS Class of 2020 would have to look forward to, given how much seniors have already lost this year due to COVID-19.

MHS senior Khari Jenkins, like so many of her classmates, has been feeling that loss.

“Graduating from high school is a really big deal. At a school like Montclair High School where the graduation rate is well above the national average, people don’t acknowledge what a huge accomplishment graduating from high school really is,” says Jenkins. “Crossing the bridge in the Amphitheater and experiencing Project Graduation are the only times where seniors at Montclair High School really get praise and recognition for finishing their high school career. High school was particularly hard for me. There were times where it seemed like I might not graduate on time, but I did. That’s a really big deal, but I won’t have a graduation ceremony. I won’t have anything to show for it. I won’t participate in the traditions that I watched my sister experience four years ago. I understand why, but it does not make it hurt any less.

Montclair High School seniors have been promised a virtual graduation, but with Memorial Day weekend almost here, seniors and parents still don’t have much in the way of specifics.

Montclair Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Nathan Parker notified parents Thursday that plans for an MHS Virtual Graduation were locked down on Wednesday.

Specifics will be coming out early next week and posted on our website, Parker said.

“Many are disappointed we will not have the traditional graduation ceremony and supporting events. I share your disappointment. My hope is graduation will still be meaningful for our wonderful graduates, families and friends.

“We are also working on a few surprises with the Township to help our graduates remember the day,” he added.

Paker had previously emailed families on May 12, saying the decision to move to a virtual graduation ceremony was made in light of the current orders regarding stay-at-home orders, social distancing requirements, and restrictions on large gatherings forwarded by Governor Murphy and the New Jersey Board of Education. The virtual graduation will take place on the same dates and times as the already scheduled Class of 2020 Graduation – June 24, 2020.

Parker had said the virtual graduation ceremony will replicate as many components of an in-person graduation ceremony, including the processional, student speeches along with honors and student recognition.

In that email, Parker said students were surveyed on the possibility of having a later graduation, either in the late summer, fall, or next spring.

“The results were quite favorable in regard to the late summer graduation, but we fear that social distancing practices and restrictions on large gatherings will still be in place,” Parker said.

Project Graduation before COVID-19 – buses make their way through Montclair to cheers all over town. Photo: Jen Grisafi

Meanwhile, Class of 2020 families have also wanted to know the plans for Project Graduation. This update was sent Tuesday to parents:

Dear Parents and Guardians of MHS Senior Class,

We hope that you are finding safety and some security during these very strange and unprecedented times.

We want to take a moment to update you on the Status of Project Graduation.

First, it is important that we clarify that Project Graduation is not involved in any of the official graduation ceremonies, decisions, or planning.

We encourage you and your students to reach out directly to Mr Clark and Mr Grosso.

We are purely responsible for the PG Celebration that happens after graduation proper, which includes fundraising and planning for both the bus parade and the celebration at the surprise venue.

The big question for us…..the Project Graduation event.

We are cautiously hopeful, committed and determined to celebrate our graduates.

We are in steady communication with our venue team as they receive updates from their leadership based on new updates from the Governor and State. As of today, May 19th, the event is still scheduled for June 24th. If the venue needs to postpone that date due to state regulations, then we will postpone to the date we are given, which we have been advised will most likely be in late July/early August. If the state is still in a similar restricted situation, we will continue to work with our venue to secure a future date, perhaps over thanksgiving or winter break. We realize that this is very fluid and nothing is set in stone. We understand and appreciate that we must be flexible with so much uncertainty, and we are fully committed to celebrating our graduates with this PG event.

We also have the option of cancelling the venue outright at any time. Although we feel this is the worst case scenario and a completely premature choice right now, if we are forced to make this decision, the venue will issue a full refund of deposits paid and we will get to planning an alternate celebration for the seniors with as much pomp and circumstance that the town and government will allow. If this scenario were the case, we will also launch a survey to the students, to get their feedback on options for celebration.

In terms of current fundraising business, we have been continuing our efforts to sell lawn signs and bows, which remain available to purchase up until May 22nd, and you will likely see upcoming merch from our Spirit Wear Committee.

All the money that has been raised and continues to be raised will be used exclusively for the celebration of our seniors in the Project Graduation event. PG did make the very difficult decision to cancel our Dance Party Fundraising Event, which historically is a major fundraising event for making budget. We will need to do additional fundraising in order to cover all of the costs of producing the event (including but not exclusive to venue, food, buses, security, police along parade). As you can see. we are in a holding pattern, with the rest of the community.

In the absolute worst case scenario where everything is cancelled indefinitely, we will look to you, our community of parents, for guidance, in the form of a survey or the like.

Parents and Guardians, we bear in mind that our children have not had their last days in the halls together, have not signed each other’s yearbooks, given last hugs as high school students, gone to Prom, had final concerts or sports seasons, and maybe even not ‘crossed the bridge’. We share with you the frustration and sadness of this time of uncertainty. We align with your desire to properly send off our graduates.

We recognize that the PG event may be elevated from epic party to their final and only celebration of this milestone, and we are committed to giving it to them, some way, somehow, safely and with as much celebration, love and compassion possible.

We will continue to update you as we get information. We will reach out if and when we need volunteer help again.

As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns.

Be safe, Be well.

Warmest Regards,

Erika and Shannon

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