Graduation date gets pushed due to COVID-19

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Students throw up their graduation hats, excited for the next chapter of their lives.

Anushka Patil, Co-Editor-in-Chief

With COVID-19 in mind, graduation for the Class of 2020 has been pushed from its original date of June 5 to later in the summer or to December, depending on the severity of the pandemic. COVID-19 ended the physical school year for students globally, leading to senior events like graduation and prom to be put up-in-the-air. However, after analyzing the situation, the Class of 2020 officers and advisors, dean Dan Twomey, and principal Jim Antonelli put together a proposal for senior graduation, giving August 7, 8, or 9 as well as December 19, 2020, as feasible dates.

At the school committee meeting held on May 4, Antonelli presented the plan to have an official ceremony for the graduating class. Antonelli expressed its importance for seniors in order to acknowledge the hard work the class put in throughout their thirteen years in the Westford Public School system.

“The plan is to think of two specific dates in hopes that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is able to release some opportunities for us to have graduation on sight. The first being the weekend of August 7,8, or 9, where we do something at the Trustees Field with a morning graduation of some sort. Something with social distancing with masks and gloves. If we do not have clearance by that time, we will do an indoor graduation in December when students are home for a holiday recess,” Antonelli said.

For safety precautions, Antonelli stated the possibility of only graduates being part of the ceremony. If this is the case, the event will be live-streamed for families to watch from home.

Antonelli provided the alternative of a virtual ceremony if COVID-19 prohibits a future in-person social gathering.

Despite the type of ceremony, the senior class officers decided graduation will not be extended past January 1, 2021.

“Our officers for the Class of 2020 are just class acts. They realize that going beyond January 1, 2021, is just something we shouldn’t try to tackle and that it would take away from the Class of 2021. The students of the Class of 2020 are just great students with great leadership, knowing that we have another graduation to worry about, they realize we would go to a virtual at that point,” Antonelli said.

Twomey remarked on the goals the class officers have for their class’s final social gathering.

“We evaluated every option. There are countless examples all across the country, college and high school, how different people are conducting graduations. With the size of the event, it limits us in certain ways. The three themes I continued to hear were that they wanted to be together, they wanted to wait, and they wanted a traditional graduation on stage,” Twomey said.

Senior class president Matt Wasylyshyn revealed how, in recent surveys to Westford Academy parents and students, it was clear neither wanted a virtual graduation. Even if parents are not allowed at the event, Wasylyshyn shared parents’ desire to see their children have a normal graduation experience.

“I think with a lot of things related to [COVID-19] a big common theme is time. We believe that these dates are far enough out that we can rethink [graduation]. I know it is only May and there are very tight restrictions, but we do not know what it’s going to look in August. We especially do not what it’s going to look like seven months from now in December. The [seniors] just want one last time to be together. We, as the Class of 2020, need something to root for, something to hold us together and keep us motivated to power through. We believe that graduation together is the best way to say goodbye to our community,” said Wasylyshyn.

The school committee showed their support for the class officers’ plans. School committee member Gloria Miller praised the officers for their dedication.

“It’s obvious how much thought has gone into this. Even if parents can only watch a live stream at home, it seems that you guys are thinking through all the options. You guys will make it work, and you deserve that moment. So, I’m just going to add a shout-out to the universe to give you guys that moment,” Miller said.