An outdoor graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 is being planned for July 31 — rain or shine — at the WHRHS football field, depending on social distancing rules at that time, according to Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Szymaniak.
But first, the seniors will get a car parade send-off on Friday, May 29.
“I don’t know what [commencement] is going to look like yet, I don’t know if we’ll be able to have everyone in attendance, or if we’re going to stage it like the Air Force Academy did, with just the graduates spaced six feet apart [there],” he said. “I’m hoping by July 31 our restrictions are a little less — we will still maintain social distancing and everything — but we’re really looking at a live graduation on July 31.”
Plans can be modified if things shift in the next month or so, but Szymaniak said the ceremony is what seniors said they wanted in a recent video meeting with him.
W-H principal Dr. Christopher Jones, with the assistance of both towns’ police and fire personnel, delivered graduation lawn signs to seniors’ homes the week of May 4.
A Senior Class car parade, set for 1:30 p.m., Friday, May 29 is planned to pass by each school in the district to allow seniors to thank teachers. Whitman and Hanson police and fire personnel will be “actively involved in the send-off as well, Szymaniak said.
Hanson Middle School has scheduled a similar parade for their eighth-graders in June and Whitman Middle School is planning something similar.
“The senior class has asked that all school and teachers be represented, meaning all teachers at the elementary and middle [teachers as well], will be staged at different areas of the high school parking lot, from the tennis courts up to the loop – building-specific, so seniors can drive through and say goodbye to their teachers,” Szymaniak said. “Wave goodbye and do a real senior send-off on the 29th, which would have been graduation day.”
A virtual scholarship awards ceremony will be held and live-streamed on Saturday, June 30.
Commissioner of Education Jeffrey C. Riley issued new remote learning standards earlier this month, called power standards, which Szymaniak described as “just diving down deeper into the core of what we were already doing.”
Instead of review, teachers across the district are diving deeper into the curriculum and principals are working on how students will be assessed and graded on report cards. Grading will be credit or no credit at the high school and a pass/fail system is being looked at for the middle school and elementary levels.
To close out the school year, students have to pick up belongings left at school since March 15 and teachers still have to close out classrooms.
Principals will be establishing a time frame for teachers to come in and pack up all student materials into bags for a drive-up parent pickup much like what was done when Chromebooks were issued. High school seniors will go first on May 26 and 27. Elementary and middle school teachers will report to their buildings that week to pack up their classrooms and students’ belongings.
Building-specific parent pickup times will be scheduled for the week of June 1 to 5.
“We need our Chromebooks returned … June 11 and 12,” he said. There are close to 700 Chromebooks out and the district wants to ensure they are all returned with as little damage as possible.
Interim Business Manager John Tuffy reported that the $500,000 ban debt remaining for the Hanson school HVAC project will be rolled over on May 28. He said it does not add to the district budget or debt burden, it is just a routine rollover already accounted for in next year’s budget.
The School Committee voted to rescind a Feb. 26 vote for a Whitman Middle School feasibility study and warrant article in favor of new language from bond council that includes authorization to borrow.
“What has happened a little bit is Whitman has changed how they’re going to do their funding source, as I understand it,” said School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes.
“The town of Whitman, facing a severe revenue crunch, does not have the available funds to pay for it out of free cash, as they were going to once do,” said Committee member Fred Small. He said they plan bans similar to the HMS HVAC project — a three-year ban — to fund the feasibility study.
Tuffy concurred with Small’s description, explaining that bond counsel has presented Whitman with the option of using free cash or borrowing the money. Town officials are discussing a three-year loan, but the final decision is up to Town Meeting.
Small also reported that the Whitman Finance Committee held a brief discussion on the matter Tuesday, May 12, and that it has also gone through the facilities subcommittee.
“There’s revenue issues in every town across the commonwealth,” he said.