MONROE, CT — Masuk High School Principal Jacob Greenwood recently sent a letter to seniors and their families outlining what a June 12 graduation will look like, while still holding out hope state restrictions on public gatherings will be relaxed enough in time for a group celebration on July 31.
“We respond to every executive order and every guideline given to us by the State Board of Education every week.” Greenwood said Wednesday. “If more people can gather, we’d definitely be willing to change it up. But right now, I think we really have a solid plan for our graduates. I think it will be a beautiful day.”
At noon on June 12, graduates, their families and friends will watch pre-recorded speeches on a live stream from home, before groups meet at Fireman’s Field on Route 111. Greenwood said the signup will enable students to be grouped with their friends.
“Seniors wanted to be with each other, so this is an opportunity to do that,” he said. “They’ll go there at a certain time and we’ll organize them into a procession.”
Greenwood said meeting at the staging area on Fireman’s Field will be a special moment for graduates who have not seen their classmates for three months. Families are encouraged to decorate their vehicles for the occasion.
Vehicle processions will move down Route 111, which will be decorated with balloons and signs celebrating the Class of 2020.
The procession will go up Masuk’s main driveway and turn the opposite way at the guard shack, while circling to the front of the building. A stage will be set up in parking spaces facing the school.
Graduates, wearing their caps and gowns, will walk beside the cars, keeping a safe social distance from each other. They will receive their diplomas and walk across the stage, briefly remove their masks for a photo at the podium, and hear their name called over the PA system.
A professional photographer will be on hand, but Greenwood said this ceremony will also give families a unique opportunity to take a close up photo of their own.
“I think we will give access to parents they wouldn’t normally have,” Greenwood said. “We’re going to allow these cars to drive right up to the stage for a front-and-center photo for the first time ever.”
During traditional commencement ceremonies, the stage is at the 50-yard-line of the school football field and parents watch everything from the bleachers.
Since only graduates can exit their vehicles on June 12, relatives taking photos and video are encouraged to do so from their passenger side windows.
Another memento graduates will receive is colored cords in red, white and black for the Class of 2020 that they will wear around their necks. Greenwood said it is unique to this class.
The entire procession will be live streamed online, so others can log in to watch seniors receive their diplomas.
Teachers play a role
After graduates receive their diplomas, they will leave in their family’s vehicle, exiting the south gate nearest to the JV softball field.
Along the way, they will see a parade of well wishes and kind words on signs and photographs as they drive through the parking lot — as well as some familiar faces.
“Our teachers are also eager to share in the joy,” Greenwood said. “Teachers will be on hand to congratulate the graduates as they drive down the south gate driveway and exit the ceremony.”
Greenwood expressed his gratitude to the Monroe Volunteer Fire Department, the Monroe Police Department, First Selectman Ken Kellogg and the Masuk Parent Teacher Council, whose volunteers will set up the decorations along Route 111 and in the school parking lot.
Anne Brakeman, a Masuk PTC member, is leading the effort on the decorations.
Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Lane, a co-president of the PTC, said this is not the ideal graduation families had wanted, so when Greenwood asked the council for help with the decorations, members were eager to pitch in.
“Everybody on the team is very excited and wants to make this as memorable and special as possible for the graduates and their families,” Lane said, “and everybody is really dedicated to being able to do that.”
The PTC had a meeting on Zoom this past Tuesday and another planning meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday.
Honor and respect
Currently, state social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus limits group gatherings to no more than five people.
“We would love for the state to come out with something to say they’ve changed their stance on it, so we can have more of a traditional ceremony,” Lane said. “Everyone would be open to changing this if that happened.”
“Our goal is to provide the best experience possible for our graduates given the current constraints,” Greenwood wrote in his letter to families. “We promise to make every senior’s graduation day safe and enjoyable. I know you share in my belief that Monroe will band together and make the graduation on June 12th a beautifully memorable moment that celebrates each of our graduates with the honor and respect they deserve for achieving this important milestone.”