Northeastern keeps May 29 grad date but opts for something different

Northeastern School District will not sacrifice its May 29 graduation date, but the ceremony will be a far cry from what's traditional, officials said. 

"I’m not calling what we’re doing a graduation — it feels a little bit different," said high school Principal Matthew Gay, in a video to students.

Despite Gov. Tom Wolf's stay-at-home orders for York County, which could extend through June 4 because of COVID-19, the district is still planning an event, but it won't be a gathering, Gay said.

Students, dressed in their caps, gowns and regalia, will arrive at the high school stadium with their families, and each student — one at a time — will enter the stadium to receive a diploma.

Northeastern High School Class of 2019 graduates toss their caps, Thursday, May 30, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

The arrivals will be staggered, with scheduled times for each student, Gay said.

Inside, photo-op locations will be set up in center field, with graduates' names displayed on the scoreboard, as one family at a time watches from the scoreboard area.

"We want to provide some kind of ceremony to that event," he said. "It’s a big deal, and we want to treat it like it is."

Gay said the district will be working out details for the plan this week, including the possibility of putting a stage on the field.

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Along with safety considerations from the governor and Pennsylvania Department of Health, the district had its solicitor review its plans to ensure there weren’t any legal ramifications.

“And of course, we answer to our community," Gay said. "That means our school community, our families, our students — all those people who are invested in our community."

Gay said he heard from state Health Secretary Rachel Levine that districts should not expect to have a commencement this summer.

So instead, administrators, staff and senior class advisers and officers helped formulate plans that would recognize seniors in lieu of a traditional ceremony.

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In addition to the diploma presentation, seniors will also receive a pre-recorded virtual graduation as a keepsake, with a link released to the class sometime in June. The same will be done for a student awards ceremony, with a planned release prior to May 29.

"There’s a sense of community," Gay said. "We can all respond on social media to what we’re seeing."

The district also is exploring the idea of an in-person gathering sometime before May 2021 — a reunion or other event to give seniors and staff a chance at a proper goodbye.

"We miss you terribly, and this isn’t the way we wanted it to go," Gay said.

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