WEST NEWBURY — Seniors and staff at Pentucket Regional High School are preparing to host a drive-in graduation June 6 if state guidelines remain the same.
Principal Jonathan Seymour made the announcement via a YouTube livestream Thursday alongside Superintendent Justin Bartholomew, senior adviser and field hockey coach Ruth Beaton, and graduating seniors Sam Stys, Cassandra Plisinski and Ben Beaulieu.
“We know what a normal year looks like and of course, this year is anything but that,” Bartholomew said, recognizing that social distancing due to COVID-19 deeply affected those important last few months for seniors.
Officials plan to keep the graduation as traditional as possible with families still planning to gather on the front field facing the high school on the first Saturday in June. The main difference is that families will be allowed only one vehicle and must remain in it for most of the ceremony, with the only exception being when the student receives the diploma.
“One of the things that was really a priority was to try to give an experience that students could have together,” Seymour said. “Not only do they want to have that experience for themselves by graduating and hearing your name and getting your diploma, but they want to be able to celebrate their classmates and their friends and obviously their families want to be there as well.”
Seymour said the ceremony will be shortened a bit with the understanding that it could be a hot day and sitting in cars may not be comfortable for all.
“When the time comes, students will be able to get out of their car and safely come up the stage, have their name read, receive their diploma, graduate, have pictures and then safely return to their cars,” he said.
The seniors admitted that this year was anything but normal with cancellation of the prom and other high school rites of passage.
“We got cut short and it doesn’t feel fair to us,” said Stys, who will attend Ithaca College in New York. “It feels like after 12 years-plus of work, we got the three best months taken from us.”
Following the initial disappointment, students and staff worked together to preserve as much as they could of senior celebrations.
“I feel we were able to take as many elements as we could from what a traditional graduation would look like and kind of put them into a way that would follow state guidelines,” said Plisinski, who will attend the University of South Carolina. “I think people really appreciate the tradition in it and I just really like that it’s definitely going to be more of a traditional ceremony, rather than something sporadic this year.”
Seymour said families will receive more detailed instructions by email about graduation, an upcoming livestreamed Senior Awards Night, future potential celebrations, and information about when students can pick up any belongings left at the school, as well as yearbooks and caps and gowns.
To see the full video, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxgy9To1uYM.