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Governor’s OK For Modified Graduation Brings Changes To FHS Plans

School officials are making changes to what the Franklin High School Class of 2020 graduation will look like in the wake of Gov. Phil Murphy’s approval of modified in-person celebrations.

What was originally scheduled for two weeks in June – namely, a drive-through, socially distanced ceremony – will now be held the week of July 13, according to a district spokeswoman.

Schools Superintendent John Ravally told parents in a phone blast on May 28 that while it won’t be what they’re used to, the ceremony will more closely resemble traditional commencements than what had originally been planned.

During the May 28 Board of Education meeting, Ravally said that tentative plans are for there to be “several smaller in-person ceremonies on the field at the high school.”

FHS principal Frank Chmiel is finalizing those plans and will let parents know “as soon as sometime next week, so families know what to expect come summer,” Ravally said.

Murphy allowed the in-person graduation ceremonies – with restrictions – early on May 27. Later that evening, the state Department of Education released guidelines for school districts.

Districts can celebrate the high school graduations one of three ways: virtually, drive-through or drive-in or modified in-person cere monies, according to a DOE press release.

The third option can only be done if districts can meet several guidelines, including holding them outdoors, mandating face masks, limiting their durations and limiting the number of people in attendance, according to the release.

The district had already settled on plans to hold a virtual and drive-through ceremony over two weeks in June. Students would be able to collect their diploma covers and have a photograph taken of them in their graduation regalia.

Students would also be given the chance to drop off whatever school-related items they had at home.

A virtual celebration is also planned, featuring a spoken-word piece written by an FHS alum performed by various students. The virtual celebration would also include speeches by the class valedictorian and salutatorian.

“Franklin High School Warrior Class of 2020 will still enjoy a virtual celebration, as well as in person outdoor events which will comply with the social gathering restrictions in effect at the time,” district spokeswoman Mary Clark wrote in an email. “Tentatively these in person events will take place during the week of July 13, 2020.  Principal Chmiel will provide addition details to the Class of 2020 as they are finalized.”

The decision to take advantage of Murphy’s order was made in the morning of May 28, after Ravally “met with members of District and Franklin High School administration” to discuss the topic, Clark wrote.

The student drop-off period will still be held in June, Clark said.

“I believe that there will still be an opportunity for students to drop off items in June but it will operate differently from what was originally planned as a student will have an opportunity to return to campus in July for an in person event,” Clark wrote.

All plans have to approved by local officials, according to the governor’s order.

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