The Kingston High School Class of 2020 will hold an in-person graduation ceremony at Dietz Stadium this weekend, though it will actually consist of ten different ceremonies spread over two days. Superintendent Paul Padalino said the series of staggered ceremonies based on a graduate’s last name, was as close as the KCSD could get to a familiar commencement in the middle of a pandemic.
“Our first idea was to do ten [ceremonies] in one day, but we thought that will be like a drive-through at McDonalds,” he said. “We want to be able to give them at least some traditional graduation experience, like hearing from the valedictorian and salutatorian, and hearing from the class president. We wanted to make a little bit longer, and we’re still looking at something like a 45-minute ceremony. But we also need time between to clean everything, make sure the bathrooms get clean, allow for the arrival of the next group. So we figured we would just go over two days.”
Commencement will be held on Friday and Saturday, July 17-18, with five ceremonies over each day. Students and up to two parents or guardians will be seated in what the superintendent called ten-foot pods on the field, and will come up to the stage when called. Professional photographs will be taken, and though graduates already received their diplomas they will be handed a certificate in an effort to retain some semblance of normalcy in an annual rite of passage that is anything but.
Padalino said Kingston’s plans were influenced by a drive-in ceremony last month by Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, which reportedly preceded a cluster of Covid 19 positive findings. “That concerned us and we focused on putting in that extra time and breaking it up into two days to help us avoid a large group in one place for any long period of time,” he said. “And even then we’re still wearing masks, we’re still social distancing.”
No one will be seated in the bleachers during the ceremonies, and each group will clear out and the venue effectively reset before the next group arrives.
“This was the best that we could come up with, and hopefully students will have a good experience,” Padalino said. “And they will certainly have something to remember all their lives, that’s for sure.”
The superintendent said that 411 of the 436 members of the KHS Class of 2020 were planning to participate in the Dietz Stadium ceremony. Each group will hear abridged versions of speeches by KHS principal Vince DeCicco, valedictorian Stephen Dong, salutatorian Kashan Mahmood and others.
“They’ve all committed to being there for both days, which is above and beyond,” Padalino said. “I thought that we would rotate them, but they all wanted to do it.”
The first alphabetically determined ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday, July 17, covering graduates Ackerman through Boice. The day will proceed at 10:30 a.m. with graduates Boler through Coddington; at noon with Coffey through Dyer; at 1:30 p.m. with Ector through Gregory; and finish at 3 p.m. with Groppuso through Katz.
On Saturday, July 18, the day will begin at 9 a.m. with Kearney through Martinez; continue at 10:30 a.m. with Mayo through Palmer; move to noon with Parker through Sanchez; continue at 1:30 p.m. with Schmidt through Thompson; and conclude at 3 p.m. with Townsend through Zuniga.
To ensure a smooth and safe transition between groups, graduates and their guests are asked to arrive shortly before their ceremony.
While there had been hope last month of holding a single in-person ceremony at Dietz, Padalino said it became clear over the past few weeks that a uniquely complex version composed of smaller ceremonies was necessary. The superintendent added that he hopes it will be a special weekend for the Class of 2020.
“They missed out on so many other things,” Padalino said. “All the rites of spring that most seniors have, they didn’t get to have. The least we can do is to try to give them some semblance of a graduation ceremony.”
For information, visit: https://www.kingstoncityschools.org/Page/4114