October 20, 2021

Hope, uncertainty felt amid high school ceremony planning

Metro Creative Graphics

The end of the school year marks some of the last times high school seniors get to celebrate with each other at prom, sports and academic awards ceremonies, and of course, graduation.

This year though, the coronavirus pandemic means many of those events will be canceled. What events remain must be modified to be done safely.

“We just want the students to know that they are missed, they are loved and that they are going to be celebrated,” said John Zarcone, the principal for grades 11 and 12 at Cortland High School.

Zarcone, and other administrators are working on plans for the traditional end-of-year events.

For some, such as pickup up the yearbook or the cap and gown, students may line up in their cars and get their things one by one, he said.

However, other events, like prom, will probably be canceled.

“There’s going to be some things this class is going to do without and it looks like prom is going to be one of those things,” he said. Try dancing at a socially distant 6 feet.

He wasn’t sure how athletic awards would be handled, but Zarcone said academic awards will likely be recorded and perhaps broadcast on Cortland’s public access channel, Channel 2.

The high school is trying to hold the biggest of all celebrations for seniors and their families — graduation — in person, but the details are still being worked out, he said.

If the district can make its own decisions, rather than rely on a state directive, it may have a drive-through graduation, where students will wear their caps and gowns and wait in their cars with their families to get their diplomas, which may be left on a desk for them to avoid hand to hand contact, he said.

“It’s going to have a very different look but our world has a different look right now,” Zarcone said.

At Homer Central High School, plans for events remain uncertain, Principal Douglas VanEtten said in an email.

Plans for student honors and awards nights and the senior banquet and graduation are being discussed with class officers and student groups along with parents and other community groups, he said. However, the senior trip to Hershey Park is definitely canceled.

“All of the impacts that the pandemic is having is disappointing as students are losing experiences,” he said. “Everyone wants the best experiences for our students.”

Similarly, at McGraw High School, Superintendent Melinda McCool is working with Principal Mark Dimorier and other administrators on plans for end-of-year events.

“It’s a day-by-day brainstorming session with me and my high school principal to see what we can do,” she said.

Graduating seniors may be invited back to the school’s prom next year and an in-person graduation ceremony may be later in the summer or year — potentially as late as winter break in December — but McCool said no plans are set in stone.

“I can do without the handshakes and hugs, but I really want to hand off the diplomas, if possible,” she said. “But again, it all depends. We’re bound to what the governor’s orders dictate.”

Seniors, though, will get a ceremony one way or the other, she said: “I am adamant about honoring our seniors with a ceremony of some sort.”