Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many events have been postponed, moved to virtual platforms or even canceled completely. The cancellations of events where a large number of people would normally gather have greatly affected high school seniors. Current seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have had their Grad Bash, prom and graduation ceremony canceled.
Grad Bash was the first event to get canceled on April 9 since this event consists of seniors visiting Universal Studios, which closed on March 12 amid the pandemic. For a few weeks after the official cancellation of Grad Bash, the final decisions about prom and graduation remained up in the air. Students remained hopeful that the spread of the virus would slow down and these traditional events for high school seniors would still take place.
“I knew that prom and graduation would probably be canceled or made virtual, but I still stayed hopeful that they would go on as normal because I have been looking forward to these events since freshman year,” senior Leah Golberg said.
As days went by, it became apparent that having hundreds of people gather for both prom and graduation would not be possible due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19. On April 16, a message was sent out on multiple platforms stating that Prom was officially canceled and on April 22, Superintendent Robert W. Runcie announced that the class of 2020’s graduation ceremony would be taking place virtually.
The decision to make graduation a virtual event was made with the input of various individuals such as administrators, teachers, seniors and other representatives from the district. Although it is not the same as taking part in an in-person ceremony, Runcie is hopeful that the technology will still allow the event to be a special occasion for seniors.
“Our goal is to use technology to make your graduation personal and memorable,” Runcie said.
Senior Class President Nicholas Joseph was included in the decision-making process and is disappointed but supportive of the final decision.
“It’s obviously sad that we aren’t able to have the graduation we want and deserve, but first and foremost we have to be safe and make the right decisions for everyone and the right decision is having a virtual graduation. If the opportunity presents itself in the next few months, we can have the graduation we deserve,” Joseph said.
MSD’s Graduation Ceremony will be broadcast live on BEACON TV and will also be streamed on YouTube where a live chat window will be available. Students will be able to pick up their cap and gown along with a graduation ceremony program at the beginning of June, and the ceremony will take place on June 15 at 7 p.m.
The virtual ceremony will include speeches from student representatives and school board members along with district and school administrators. A traditional roll call of all graduating students will also take place. Regardless of the unusual circumstances, students still had the opportunity to vote for their marshals, and the candidates who received the most votes will be giving speeches at the ceremony. AP US Government and Economics teacher Jeffrey Foster was chosen as one of the marshals and is excited to have the chance to give a speech to the graduating class.
“I’m always honored to be chosen by the senior class as a marshal and equally humbled that I will have a chance to say a few words to this year’s graduating class as they move on to their next stage on this journey we call life,” Foster said.
Some seniors are disappointed that they will not be able to have a traditional graduation ceremony and feel that they are missing out on a monumental event along their journey to adulthood.
“I think that a virtual graduation is better than nothing but I’m not happy with how the county has handled it. I would’ve liked to see more of an effort to postpone a physical graduation or something,” senior Seth Klein said. “Sitting in front of my TV is not rewarding at all for the four years I spent working hard at school.”
Other students are frustrated at how unusual their high school experience was overall.
“I am very angry and disappointed that we will be having a virtual graduation, especially having gone through the tragedy at Douglas. I think us seniors deserved to walk down the stage to get our diplomas,” senior Victoria Mondelli said.
Although there are official plans for this virtual ceremony, the district is still considering hosting additional events as well.
“The district is committed to exploring in-person graduations late in the summer if the restrictions are reduced and it is safe,” MSD Principal Michelle Kefford said.
If future in-person events do become possible, the information for these gatherings will be released at a later date.