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JHS Will Host Graduation At Strider Field

Jamestown High School announced Monday that its 2020 Graduation will take place at Strider Field on Martin Road. P-J photo by Cameron Hurst

Jamestown High School will host a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 — just in a different way than in years prior.

The district announced preliminary plans on Monday that the ceremony is expected to take place at Strider Field on Thursday, June 25, with a rain date of Friday, June 26. The ceremony, changed as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19, will adhere to safety requirements for social distancing and limits on gatherings of more than 10 people and the school administration will be providing more specific details to students and families about the ceremony, including the scheduled times for graduates to visit the Martin Road Complex to receive their diploma.

“I just can’t stress enough that between the social distancing and the no gatherings of more than 10 people requirements that the state has — we don’t have any flexibility in this,” interim principal Dana Williams told The Post-Journal. “We just don’t. If we were to hold something and something were to, God forbid, happen like a few people wind up being ill, then we’d have a catastrophe on our hands.”

Williams worked in cooperation with Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bret Apthorpe as well as student leaders, families, class advisors Aaron Jessey and Bobbi-Jo Gibbons and student organization advisor Tony Dolce to come up with a plan.

“The students who spoke up were respectful,” Williams said. “They’re all good kids and at the same time, I know they’re disappointed. There’s going to be a lot of kids that are disappointed. A lot of families are going to be disappointed and I get that. It’s just so hard … Social distancing is one thing, but the state ban on large gatherings is another. A diploma ceremony is not considered an ‘essential activity.’ I wish it was, but it’s not.”

As discussions ensued, many different options were explored.

“We tossed around ideas about moving the dates, hoping things would ease up as far as some of these health and safety requirements,” Williams said. “It’s just not something that looks like it’s going to happen soon enough so that we’ll be able to accommodate as many people as we have. Moving it just had a lot of details that wouldn’t work for a lot of other people and, again, since this was the agreed-upon date, these dates from over a year ago and when we generally have the graduation ceremony, that’s what we wanted to do and we felt it was important to keep it at this same time.”

The district also considered a “drive-by” ceremony, similar to one held in Ohio, but Williams said he wanted to make Jamestown’s ceremony more personal.

“I want to have something where they can personally walk up and get their diploma,” he said. “Some of our families don’t even have cars, so that’s not even an option. Dr. Apthorpe has been very clear that any plan that we come up with has to be accessible for any individual and for any student that is graduating. That’s another thing that we are adhering to.”

Instead, students and their families will receive a scheduled time for them to appear at one of two access gates at the field. Once their name is announced, they’ll walk out onto the field to receive their diploma and take a picture.

“We’ll have to have people around making sure that the distance is being adhered to,” Williams said. “The area where the diplomas are being handed out, that’s where we’re mandating that no more than 10 people. We’ll have a couple of people at each diploma stand.”

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, June 23, student speakers and administrators will record their speeches with the families of those students in attendance. Those will be aired on the district’s website and social media channels the next day and will be compiled into what Williams hopes will be a larger video that will showcase the speeches and each student’s chance to walk.

“We’d like to compile not just the speeches, but also the kids walking and have that recorded and compiled onto a DVD or digitally so that all the kids could potentially have that,” he said.

“With all that has happened to our seniors this year, we wanted to ensure that they are able to celebrate their graduation in a safe and meaningful way,” said Apthorpe. “I know that Mr. Williams and his staff have worked extremely hard to develop a plan that allows every student to celebrate their accomplishment in a significant way, but also keeping within the social distancing and gathering restrictions required at this time. We are all very proud of the JHS Class of 2020 and want to ensure that their accomplishment is recognized but in the safest way possible.”

Parents are encouraged to contact Williams with questions at 483-3470 or via email at dana.a.williams@jpsny.org.

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