Columbia High School announced on Thursday morning that it will host Diploma Ceremonies for the Class of 2020 on Saturday, June 27 on the CHS football field. The plan, which had been developed by school administrators earlier this spring, became possible once New York State allowed outdoor, socially distanced graduation ceremonies of up to 150 people in attendance.
In order to maintain the safety of everyone involved, the school is planning to host 10 small ceremonies with 30 graduates, and their parents, at each event.
“We have been striving to celebrate our seniors as much as possible by organizing parades, senior nights, the drive-in theatre event and now with this plan for diploma ceremonies at the high school,” said Columbia Principal Michael Harkin. “We want graduation to be a joyous and memorable experience for our graduates and their parents. We can only achieve that if it is done safely and responsibly so we’re asking for everyone’s cooperation.”
The first graduation ceremony is scheduled to start at 9:00 a.m. and each event is expected to run 30 minutes in duration. Families will receive a follow-up letter the week prior to graduation that will include the time of their child’s graduation ceremony, their parking location and a field map. The district is exploring an option to livestream the event for friends, relatives and community members who are unable to attend the event due to restrictions on large group gatherings. The school will pre-record speeches and combine this with the 10 ceremonies to provide each student with a full graduation video.
The district has been consulting with Questar BOCES and the Rensselaer County Health Department to ensure compliance with current public health guidelines.
“I’m thrilled that our district will be able to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates in a safe manner,” said Superintendent Jeff Simons. “I look forward to sharing in the joy of their families and seeing them all in their white and blue caps and gowns!”
Guidelines for Graduation Ceremony
- Ten individual ceremonies with 30 graduates, and their parents, at each event
- Masks must be worn by everyone in attendance at all times with the exception of the professional photographer station
- Only two parents/legal guardians and the graduate will be allowed on the campus
- Graduates will be assigned parking spaces in advance and must remain in the car until directed to enter the field
- Each ceremony will have a processional with the traditional graduation music
- Graduates and their parents will enter the field and take a seat at any of the 30 stations
- Seats will be arranged in rows of 10 and separated every 5 yards to ensure social distancing
- After the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem and a brief welcome address, each graduate will have their name read aloud, walk across a stage on the football field and receive their diploma
- Each graduate will then have an individual photo taken at the photography station, and then they will be joined by their parents for a family photo (masks can be removed for the photos)
- Once the photo is taken, the graduate and their parents will exit the field and return to their car
- Graduates should depart campus immediately so the field can be prepared for the next group
- Hand sanitizing stations will be available upon entering the football field
- Seats and hand rails on the stage will be cleaned between each ceremony
- School staff will help direct traffic and serve as ushers
- East Greenbush Police Department will be present on campus to help ensure safety protocols are followed
Columbia is also hosting a Senior Family Celebration on Tuesday, June 16 at the Malta Drive-In. The program will start at 9:00 p.m. and celebrate students with special videos, pre-recorded speeches and the display of all graduates’ names on the movie theater screen. Everyone in attendance must remain in their cars during the event to ensure proper social distancing.