Schools set rules for graduation ceremonies, proms | #vacation | #seniors | #elderly
Graduation ceremonies and proms are back on the schedule for Jamestown teenagers this spring.
The principals of Narragansett and North Kingstown high schools said senior festivities will go on, with some changes due to guidelines for social distancing due to the coronavirus.
The ceremonies will differ from the scaled-back events of 2020 when students were given appointment times to walk across the stage to curb the spread of the virus. These individual walks were then edited together into a video. This year, both schools will have an in-person ceremony with the entire graduating class in attendance.
“We’re planning a graduation ceremony with all of the graduates instead of one-by-one,” North Kingstown principal Barbara Morse said.
The North Kingstown graduation ceremony will take place on the football field June 9 with a rain date scheduled for the next day. Two guests for each student will be allowed at the graduation. Morse said they will look into expanding that depending on what the guidelines are in June.
Narragansett students are scheduled to graduate June 10. Principal Dan Warner said the ceremony will be outside, although the location has yet to be finalized.
Ken Duva, superintendent of schools in Jamestown, said plans are in the works for an outdoor graduation ceremony for eighth-graders at Lawn School. While exact plans are pending approval, Duva said the district hopes to have the ceremony in a tent that will be installed on the soccer field next to the school. As with the high schools, there will be a limited number of guests for each student. Guests will sit in stable groups that are 6 feet from other pods.
“After a year with no celebrations, we have been working diligently to plan for an outdoor eighth-grade graduation ceremony,” Duva said. “We are hopeful that in following the graduation guidelines, we will be able to provide a safe, memorable celebration to our students, families and staff. We are truly looking forward to celebrating with our students and families.”
Due to current guidelines, eighth-graders will not be handed their diploma, and Duva said the schools have a plan as to how students will receive them when they cross the stage. In addition to the eighth-grade ceremony, there also are events planned for the Melrose fourth-graders, kindergarteners and preschoolers.
Proms returning in June
This year also will see the return of the junior and senior proms at the high schools, which were not held in 2020 due to the pandemic. Narragansett plans to have both proms with a capacity of at least 200 people. The senior prom tentatively is scheduled for June 8 at its traditional location, the Dunes Club on Boston Neck Road. Although the private club has its own restrictions in place, Warner said he can meet those burdens.
“We have a small senior class,” he said, “and we’ll be able to accommodate those kids and their dates.”
North Kingstown will have its junior prom in June instead of May so those students can take advantage of relaxed guidelines expected to go into effect in the summer. The senior prom will be June 7 at the Oceancliff hotel in Newport.
Last year, graduating students across Rhode Island also were congratulated by their communities with car parades in lieu of in-person ceremonies. Duva said there are no current plans to have another parade in Jamestown, while Warner and Morse said their schools have yet to decide whether they will have one this year.
“We haven’t determined that yet, but it was really popular last year,” Morse said. “We’re in favor of bringing it back, but there are a lot of plans to be made. Everything is being planned differently this year than last year.”
New rules at school
All of the schools have made some changes to their COVID-related guidelines since September based on recommendations from the Rhode Island Department of Health. In Jamestown, the quarantine policy for close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 has changed from 10 days to 14 days. The quarantine time for those who have traveled out of Rhode Island to a state with a high risk of COVID-19 infection has been reduced from seven days to five, although testing still is required.
Last week, Gov. Dan McKee announced the reduction of social distancing in indoor settings, such as bars and churches, from 6 feet to 3 feet. Schools nationwide also have reduced indoor distancing to 3 feet based on new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Warner said he was not sure if those changes will be made at Narragansett, while Morse said North Kingstown went down to 3 feet of distance before McKee’s announcement as public health officials already made that reduction before the April vacation.
At Lawn and Melrose, Duva said the 5-6 feet limit that was set up in the fall remains in place. Desks at the elementary school have been set 6 feet apart due to the larger sizes of the rooms, while the desks at Lawn are 5 feet apart.
“We have not changed our physical distancing procedures,” he said.
The majority of seniors at both high schools have returned to full-time classes except for a few students who have remained in distance learning for medical reasons. Warner said the Narragansett juniors might be back in class as well by next week, and there are plans in the works to bring all the freshmen and sophomores back as well before the end of the school year.
Both high school principals said their students have adapted to the social distancing and mask guidelines since September.
“The kids understood the complexities of the virus and rose to the occasion,” Warner said. “They’re high school kids, and they’ve missed a lot of the socialization that goes with being in high school, but they’ve done a great job and they want to be back in school.”
Duva said he was pleased with how the students and faculty have acclimated to the guidelines at Lawn and Melrose.
“We had an extreme amount of support from our staff as well as our families in following the protocols,” he said. “We had very few students who had any challenges with wearing masks. We worked collaboratively with families of any students who had challenges with wearing masks at the beginning of the school year.”