Kingston High School’s hopes of holding an in-person ceremony at the end of summer may have seemed far-fetched to some. But with New York State’s continued efforts to flatten the curve seemingly working, the school district is tentatively planning to hold a ceremony at Dietz Stadium on Friday, July 17.
The Class of 2020 will forever remember their high-school days ending with three months of remote learning and decidedly unorthodox graduation celebrations. Kingston High’s commencement plans were particularly challenging.
While some districts held modified in-person ceremonies last weekend, KHS stuck to the social-distanced safety of the virtual world, with a 45-minute KHS Class of 2020 posted to the district’s YouTube page on June 26. The video included photos and video clips of graduates standing before lawn signs in their front yards, and speeches from principal Vince DeCicco, superintendent Paul Padalino, school board president James Shaughnessy, valedictorian Stephen Dong, and salutatorian Kashan Mahmood.
“I cannot express how grateful I am for all the people who have helped me reach this point, because I know that alone I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere as far as I was able to,” said Dong. “I hope that all of you find the courage to chase after your dreams, because I think you’ll find support in the most unexpected ways possible, as I have.”
A virtual scholarship awards ceremony was also held on June 18, with DeCicco and other KHS staff joining in to read names and accomplishments. One day earlier, a drive-up Senior Send-Off was held at KHS, giving graduates a chance to pick up caps and gowns and bid farewell to teachers and campus for their final time as high-school students.
Less successful was a social-media component to the virtual ceremony held on June 26, with the #KHSClassof2020 hashtag touted by the district also in use by other schools across the country.
An in-person ceremony in August was discussed, though not promised, in a May 20 letter to the KHS community from DeCicco. “This situation is very uncertain and fluid,” DeCicco wrote. “I do not want to promise something that may not be allowed to happen. The health and safety of our families continues to be our number-one priority and we do not want to host an event that may compromise anyone’s well-being.” He promised to keep everyone up to date as more information became available.
In an uncredited post to the KCSD’s official Facebook page on June 12, plans for an in-person ceremony in July were revealed. “After a recent change made by governor Cuomo regarding event capacity held in New York State, the KHS Graduation Committee comprised of students, parents, teachers, administrators and board of education members has decided to amend the original plans for the 2020 commencement ceremony.”
“The students have had a goal to walk together and graduate as one class before saying goodbye to KHS,” read the Facebook post announcing the July 17, 5 p.m. ceremony. “This date was chosen to give a week of flexibility for possible changes or setbacks to the phased reopening.”
Neither DeCicco nor Padalino could be reached this week for comment. But the June 12 Facebook post gave the impression that the in-person ceremony was a near-certainty.
“KCSD administration and KHS faculty and staff have been committed to giving the students as close to a traditional graduation as possible,” read the post. “By waiting until July, we will be able to host a graduation at Dietz Stadium that families can enjoy along with their graduates. We would like to thank the senior students and their families for their patience with this process and letting the district make decisions that have the safety of our community in mind.”
It concluded, “See you on July 17th!”