COVID-19 Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

No Plans — for Now — to Hold In-Person Graduation for Columbia High School, Superintendent Confirms

South Orange-Maplewood Schools Superintendent Dr. Ronald Taylor confirmed on Friday that as of now, there are no plans to  hold an in-person graduation ceremony for Columbia High School seniors this year.

Rather, CHS will proceed with its already-announced plans for a virtual graduation, Taylor said.

“I understand that we all yearn for a return to what we view as normalcy, including our much-anticipated rites of passage and culminating activities,” wrote Taylor in an email. “However, I am confirming in this communication [that] our virtual graduation and promotional activities will be moving forward as our official ceremonies for the 2019-2020 school year. The health and safety of our students and staff continue to remain our highest priority.”

Taylor continued, “It is a sobering fact that as of last Thursday, 6/4, 12 positive COVID-19 cases were confirmed at the countywide testing site in Maplewood.”

There had been hopes among CHS students and families that an in-person ceremony that followed strict social distancing guidelines would be permitted, after Gov. Phil Murphy gave the go-ahead for such events.

Still, the Superintendent’s message seemed to leave the door slightly open to the possibility for some sort of event to take place after July 6:

“…our Maplewood Health Officer, CHS Leadership Team and I will be having discussions with the CHS Class of 2020 student representatives and the CHS Home School Association (HSA) to talk about what is creatively possible in terms of celebrating this very deserving group. Of course, per the Governor’s Executive Order, this (or these) event(s) would occur after July 6th, acknowledging the many obvious variables and limitations (i.e., lack of staff during the summer, gathering capacity limitations, social distancing, etc.,).

See the full letter below.

Hello SOMSD Family,

I hope this correspondence finds you and your loved ones well. As we approach the end of the school year, and in light of the Governor’s updates over the past couple of weeks, we want to clarify our current position and provide some rationale regarding the graduation process and plans for our District.

We are specifically focusing on Columbia High School, and will address other students in our district who are being promoted from a ‘milestone grade.’ Over the last month, Governor Murphy has released information and guidance to districts regarding outdoor graduations after July 6th and in subsequent communications has shared the regulations that districts will have to comply with in order to hold graduations. We have reviewed these guidelines and the links are shared below.

I understand that we all yearn for a return to what we view as normalcy, including our much- anticipated rites of passage and culminating activities. However, I am confirming in this communication the following: Our virtual graduation and promotional activities will be moving forward as our official ceremonies for the 2019-2020 school year. The health and safety of our students and staff continue to remain our highest priority. It is a sobering fact that as of last Thursday, 6/4, 12 positive COVID-19 cases were confirmed at the countywide testing site in Maplewood.

With that being said, our Maplewood Health Officer, CHS Leadership Team and I will be having discussions with the CHS Class of 2020 student representatives and the CHS Home School Association (HSA) to talk about what is creatively possible in terms of celebrating this very deserving group. Of course, per the Governor’s Executive Order, this (or these) event(s) would occur after July 6th, acknowledging the many obvious variables and limitations (i.e., lack of staff during the summer, gathering capacity limitations, social distancing, etc.,).

Lastly, this planning will be limited to the Columbia High School Class of 2020. We celebrate and appreciate all students who are preparing for a transition to a new school, however, we do not have the capacity to take on this planning for all district culminating activities. The final caveat is that this planning is fluid and could be impacted by changes in COVID-19 data, or Governor’s decree.

Governor’s Office and New Jersey Department of Education Communications:

Educationally yours, Dr. Ronald G. Taylor

Download (PDF, 473KB)

 

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