Franklin High School Begins Modified In-Person Graduation Ceremonies

The first 182 members of the Franklin High School Class of 2020 graduated July 13, although not in the manner they envisioned last September.

Coronavirus concerns nearly scotched any semblance of a traditional graduation; district and school officials initially crafted a “virtual” ceremony with no “in-person” component.

But Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent Executive Orders allowing for larger outdoor gatherings than previously permitted also led to approval for highly-regulated, in-person graduation ceremonies.

In Franklin’s case, those ceremonies would take the form of six ceremonies over three days, July 13, 14 and 15, held at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

So, beginning at 10 a.m. on July 13, and then again at 5 p.m., 91 members of the Class of 2020, witnessed by up to four guests each, marched into Warriors Stadium, took their socially distanced seats on the football field and, after listening to a short ceremony, received their diploma covers.

There was also the traditional “turning of tassels,” although throwing caps in the air was not allowed, before the graduates marched back to the school building.


Traditional speeches by the class Valedictorian, Salutatorian and President were shifted to the virtual space, on the district’s web site.

The students did hear live versions of the “Star Spangled Banner” sung by Georgios Kalegeropoulos, and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” – considered the Black national anthem – by Maleah Moon.

There was also a short speech by FHS principal Frank Chmiel, who used most of his time congratulating the seniors on their academic and extra-curricular achievements, and for getting through this most unusual of school years.

“Class of 2020, there was a lot that got us down during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine,” Chmiel said. “I want you to know it was a very emotional time for us also.”

Noting that the quarantine and subsequent school shutdown led to the cancellation of what he called the “funnest” parts of senior year – the class trip, the Prom and the yearbook signing dinner – the seniors took it “remarkably well.”

“While you were very disappointed, you also recognized the seriousness of the disease plaguing our world, down to our own community,” he said. “Your maturity in dealing with the whole situation makes us proud.”

Chmiel noted that some students worked extra hours to bring in more income for their family, some took care of older family members and other volunteered.

“You showed all the different things that we Warriors are able to do well,” Chmiel said.

“As a principal, I am beaming with pride, because sitting in front of me are some of the most intelligent, hard-working, talented and athletic people I know, and I get to say I’m your principal,” he said. “What makes me most proud, is not your academics, not your extracurricular achievements, it’s the fact that you’re good people.”

Drawing attention to protests against police brutality that erupted across the country and in the township, Chmiel noted that some FHS students took part in teh demonstrations.

“Instead of focusing on yourselves, staying down and depressed about how everything’s affecting your lives, you shifted your attention to the bigger problems affecting society,” he said. “You marched. You showed up, and you showed out, and we were very proud of you.”

“I am happy with all of the great things you have done, Class of 2020,” Chmiel said. “All the talent, skills and prowess are nice, but it’s how we use these abilities, this knowledge and our skills to help this world become a better place that matters. I truly believe that this is what you’re all about, and it makes me truly proud and honored to be your principal.”

Here are some scenes from the 10 a.m. ceremony:

Here are some scenes from the 5 p.m. ceremony:

Editor’s Note: The Franklin Reporter & Advocate will cover the remaining four graduation ceremonies.

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