Dear North Colonie Families,
I wanted to reach out because I know that there are many people in the community who are wondering about this year’s graduation ceremony and the events that we have planned for our seniors. We have been meeting with senior class officers and we continue to work hard to plan for many different events that our seniors deserve and we want to provide for them. Even if you do not have a senior graduating this year, you most likely know one. Perhaps they are your neighbor, babysitter or family member. I know our community and I know you all care about one another. We are all deeply saddened by the fact that the Class of 2020 has already missed out on so many events that they have looked forward to for years. Please know that we are doing whatever we can to make sure the Class of 2020 has as many senior experiences as possible, given the current public health crisis.
This infographic explains some of the events that we currently have planned for our seniors. This includes the distribution of Class of 2020 lawn signs, a virtual senior awards ceremony, a “Senior Send-Off” at Shaker High School, a virtual graduation ceremony and the possibility of an August in-person stage-crossing ceremony where students will be able to physically walk across the stage in their cap and gown and receive their diploma.
We realize there is no substitute for an in-person graduation ceremony. We all know that graduation is an important milestone for every student and we know how much the students and their families have looked forward to that day. It is important that I take this time to clarify the scenarios that have been talked about in our community in regard to graduation. It is my hope that you will understand the circumstances and the guidelines we are under when we make our decisions.
As of right now, NYS on Pause is in effect through May 15. Under NYS on Pause, non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size, for any reason (e.g. parties, celebrations or other social events) are canceled or postponed at this time. This is a directive from Governor Cuomo that is unfortunately out of our control. We are closely monitoring the governor’s announcements and the status of NYS on Pause. We do not know if NYS on Pause will be extended beyond May 15, or if updated guidance will be released about mass gatherings. It is important to clarify that if NYS on Pause remains in effect through June 27, we will not be allowed to hold an in-person ceremony of any kind in June.
However, we are not giving up hope that the governor could loosen the current guidelines/restrictions and then we could have an in-person ceremony in June. Here are the potential options for June, pending guidelines at that time:
- A ceremony at the Times Union Center. If this option were to take place, instead of a large ceremony with all 500+ graduates, we anticipate numerous smaller ceremonies that would take place over a number days, with smaller groups of graduates.
- A ceremony on our football field. The same guidelines as the Times Union Center would apply.
- A ceremony at a drive-in theater. This option would not fit the entire Class of 2020. Only 200 cars are allowed in at a time. If a ceremony took place at a drive-in, it would have to be divided into sections, over numerous days, where one car per family would be allowed to park and watch a video of the virtual graduation on the big screen. No one would be allowed to get out of their cars.
If restrictions are loosened and an in-person ceremony can take place, the district would welcome a traditional graduation. However, given the number of unknowns at this time, we are proactively working on a virtual graduation ceremony for June just in case an in-person ceremony is prohibited. We did not want June 27, the date that has been marked on calendars for a year, to come and go without recognizing our seniors in some way on that day. We would also plan to hold the stage-crossing ceremony in August, if the guidelines set by the state and local officials allow for that, in order to bring the Class of 2020 together one last time and celebrate all of their accomplishments.
Please know that I, along with many other Albany County superintendents, are in the process of setting up a meeting with Albany County officials to get further guidance on graduation and what our options may be. As of right now, local officials have not recommended that we move forward with an in-person graduation ceremony on June 27 due to the ongoing public health crisis. We are aware that there are some schools in other counties that may be planning some type of in-person ceremony in June. However, we must follow guidelines from the state and Albany County officials and the Albany County Department of Health. The health and safety of our families is our number one priority and we would not want an event hosted by the district to impact anyone’s well-being. We assure you that we will keep an eye on the governor’s executive orders and we will keep everyone up to date as more information becomes available.
It is our hope that we will be able to eventually celebrate our seniors in person because that is what they deserve. I know this is a stressful, difficult and upsetting time for everyone, but especially for families with seniors. We will do whatever it takes to make this year special and our hearts go out to each and every member of the Class of 2020.
Thank you for your understanding.
D. Joseph Corr
Superintendent of Schools