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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Highlands High Principal Announces Graduation Plans

Graduation won't look like this, this year but plans are in the works to ensure a memorable celebration for the class of 2020.

By Robin Gee

Those planning the 2020 graduation have faced a challenge like none other. After all, everyone is new to the idea of holding this special ceremony during a worldwide pandemic.

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As Principal Matthew Bertasso said in a recent video announcing Highlands High School graduation plans, a traditional graduation ceremony—a big gathering of students, staff, family and friends—is contrary to every type of social distancing parameter, every guideline designed to keep us safe and healthy.

How, then do we honor and celebrate our students in a way that is memorable and special? School officials and others involved in planning the event took on the challenge, said Bertasso. They identified the elements that are most important to students and their families and devised new ways to ensure those elements are included in the plans.

The plan was approved by the group a few weeks ago but had to go through a number of checks and approvals to ensure it met all of the health and safety guidelines put forward by the state, federal agencies and the local health department, he said.

So, this year, of course, there will not be a traditional Highlands graduation. It will be different than any graduation in the history of the school, Bertasso said. "And, yet, at same time, I feel we have a plan that will really honor our seniors in a very special and unique way given where we are."

Many elements in the plan

Here is a calendar of the graduation events as they will unfold:

May 21 is the last day of school. The principal noted that students need to have all their work completed so that officials will have time to make sure everyone has what they need to graduate.

May 23 involves a special filmed event in which graduates will have the opportunity to have their names read, walk across the stage and receive their diplomas. Soon students will receive their caps and gowns as well more information on this aspect of the plan.

Here’s how it will work: 
Groups of 30 to 40 graduating seniors will be given a specific individual time to come in their cars to the parking lot at the Launch building at 20 Grand Avenue. Each car will be assigned a parking space. Further instructions will be provided via FM broadcasting.

Students and two of their supports (parents, grandparents, other relatives or friends) will be given a time to leave their car and walk to the stage. A viewing area will be set up in front of the stage for the student’s chosen supporters to watch the student receive a diploma.

"The supporters will have a front-row seat for this. We will have a viewing area right up front for the parents or other supporters to watch, take pictures, etc. This will perhaps be the best view that our parents have ever had for a graduation," Bertasso said.

"Our hope is that students will be able to see some of their friends, their peers, for sure they’ll see their classmates, graduate just like they are. We will then take that video and include that on our broadcast on May 27 so that everybody can see all the graduates."

May 24 will be a broadcast of the 2020 awards ceremony that will include all the awards and scholarships seniors have earned.

May 26 is Macbook dropoff day and "swag bag" pickup. Seniors can pick up some specially selected memorabilia for the class of 2020 at that time.

May 27 at 7p.m. will be the official 2020 Graduation Ceremony broadcast event. In addition to the film of graduates receiving their diplomas at Launch earlier, there will be recognition of the graduates and speeches, all the elements of a traditional graduation ceremony.

A very special night

"We wanted to make that a special night as well, and it isn’t just watching a video. On the 27th there will be live elements as well as recorded elements. The live elements will be somewhat of a surprise," the principal explained.

"We want seniors to be with their families, to be with those who are closest to them in their homes watching the broadcast, yet all together as they watch across town. We hope that they do text one another and share memories with one another. And, we’ll also have some ways we can interact during the broadcast."

To the seniors, Bertasso said, "We recognize this is not the graduation you might have thought of four years ago as you entered high school. It’s not the graduation that you thought was going to happen in January. This will be a great opportunity for us to get together to create a graduation that will be unique from all other graduations that have taken place at Highlands High School."

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