ROMNEY — As gathering restrictions continue to throw a wrench in the planning of graduation, Tuesday night’s school board meeting saw continued debate on the subject, as well as COVID-19’s effects on other traditional senior activities.
As of Wednesday, there are no set plans for graduation. Over the past several weeks, ideas have been thrown around, including an idea for a parade-style ceremony to adhere to social distancing regulations, but there have been no decisions made on when graduation will be or the format for the ceremony itself.
Superintendent Jeff Pancione acknowledged that while the gathering restrictions present a huge challenge for graduation planning, he doesn’t want anyone to think the board is not taking the event seriously.
“We are not trying to make light of it or sell it short,” he explained. “We are operating under a whole new set of rules that are bigger and more powerful than we are. Working within these guidelines, we will make it as meaningful and as special as we can.”
Board president Debbie Champ, who has been outspoken the last few weeks in support of a traditional graduation ceremony to be held whenever restrictions are lifted, also brought up concerns about other traditional senior events.
“We’ve talked about graduation a lot, but another thing on the mind of the kids is prom,” Champ remarked. “Your senior prom is something you remember. How are we doing awards? How are we doing our scholarship awards?”
Pancione also mentioned that, in the conversation of traditional senior events including award ceremonies and the athletic banquet, the board was taking the specialness of the events into account and waiting for directions and guidelines on how to proceed.
Champ also pointed out that during Governor Jim Justice’s press conference where he canceled school for the rest of the year, his thoughts about graduation ceremonies were in line with hers.
“We don’t know when we’re going to have it, but our kids are going to walk across the stage someplace and have a true celebration of their graduation,” Champ maintained.
Many of the questions that community members have been posing to Pancione and the board have been focused on the “when” just as much as the “how” of graduation, and Pancione stood firm Tuesday night on his stance.
“Working within the restrictions we have to adhere to local, state and federal agencies. Can we say [graduation] will happen in June? Maybe not. The verbiage we will have to use will be ‘pending the lifting of the current restrictions,’” Pancione explained. “Maybe July, maybe August, maybe even September, but we provide that opportunity. At some point in time, we offer the students an opportunity to walk across the stage.”
Board member Dee Dee Rinker brought up some concerns regarding the drive-through graduation idea proposed by HHS assistant principals Megan Fuller and Adam Feazell several weeks ago.
“We have 214 seniors. If every senior took 5 minutes, it’s not feasible to do a drive-through graduation, you’ll be there all day, and you can’t have people backed up like that,” Rinker added. “We have to have a more conventional, more traditional graduation, whenever it may end up being.”
If the drive-through graduation was actually put in place, 214 seniors each taking 5 minutes during the parade-style ceremony to receive their diploma, take photos with their family by their car, etc., the ceremony would take nearly 18 hours total.
With the graduation discussion in full swing and no clear endpoint for the large gathering restrictions, the board is faced with a conundrum, on top of the ongoing conversation about the bond on the ballot June 9. Board vice president Ed Morgan said the board was “blessed” that the election has been pushed back a month, buying time for he and his counterparts to get the ball rolling on engaging with the public about issues related to the $26 million levy.
“We’ve got some work ahead of ourselves,” Morgan affirmed. “We need to inform the public.” o