Schools provided options for graduation ceremonies during pandemic

Coronavirus

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Graduations are going to be much different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) shared a series of guidelines on Monday, aimed at helping schools across the state plan commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020.

A RIDE spokesperson tells Eyewitness News that many schools already have alternate plans in place, including two Warwick high schools that are holding “graduations by appointment.”

According to senior Olivia Lancellotta, West Warwick High School has similar plans. 

“They’re going to record you walking across the stage so you have some sort of normal video, and that video will be shared on June 5, which is our graduation day,” Lancelltta said.

Lancellotta said the pandemic has stripped her and her classmates of memories they were looking forward to.

“I’m honestly just used to being disappointed, everything is just being canceled, for good reason,” she said.

However, Lancellotta said she’s still excited and will watch the ceremony in her cap and gown with her family, adding that it’s better than nothing.

The guidelines include different ceremony options for schools to choose from, including both virtual and drive-in graduations.

For virtual graduations, RIDE listed several ways schools could reach large audiences online, including Zoom and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

At ceremonies like Lancellotta’s, students are required to masks at all times. 

More: RIDE’s Graduation Guidelines »

Schools opting to have a drive-in graduation can choose from a list recommended locations that have enough space for hundreds of vehicles, such as the Rustic Drive-In in North Smithfield.

Districts that choose this option must ensure everyone stays in their cars. Cars that are within 6 feet of each other must also have their windows up at all times.

RIDE encouraged districts to prerecord all commencement speeches, as well as students walking across the stage, though students will not be allowed to shake hands with faculty or receive a diploma.

RIDE also announced that the state is partnering with PBS to host a televised graduation special for the Class of 2020, which will include guest speakers, musical performances and contributions from graduating seniors.

The graduation special is scheduled for June 15 at 7 p.m.

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