Plans for an outdoor graduation ceremony were announced prematurely on Thursday in the Montclair Local, something Montclair Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Nathan Parker now regrets.
“I was trying to convey some of the options we were looking at and it came across as definitive,” Parker told Baristanet Thursday evening.
Parker said that when the district has something definitive, parents will be notified, adding that it’s been difficult because the guidelines keep changing.
New Jersey’s Department of Education had only released its guidelines for outdoor ceremonies on Wednesday.
The guidelines do not include a total number of people who can attend a modified outdoor ceremony — they only state that ceremonies must meet the capacity limits for outdoor gatherings that are in place on the date of the graduation. The current number is 25, but Gov. Phil Murphy has stated that number would likely increase as data continues to show declining COVID-19 cases.
Parker said, depending on what that number is in July, would determine whether the school would have to have multiple ceremonies throughout the day to accommodate students, faculty and families safely.
What is certain is the virtual graduation ceremony will still take place on June 24. Parker wanted to express than the district was working toward an outdoor ceremony, tentatively scheduled on Thursday, July 9. The proposed location would be the football field at the Aubrey Lewis Sports Complex, a departure from the traditional ceremony at the amphitheater.
Parents have received emails with updates about graduation from Montclair High School Principal Anthony Grosso and Parker on the virtual ceremony; Grosso emailed parents Tuesday to say the school would plan for an outdoor ceremony in addition to the virtual graduation after learning of Governor Murphy’s allowance for an in person graduation starting July 6th.
When the plans are finalized, parents can expect the ceremonies to comply with the guidelines for modified outdoor ceremonies: students must stay six-feet apart; all in attendance are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings and class size and available space in light of social distancing protocol will determine the number of ceremonies needed.
Montclair typically graduates over 500 students. If Montclair has to conduct multiple ceremonies to comply with capacity limits, there will also need to be time allotted for cleaning protocols in between ceremonies.