How ARHS is (and isn’t) honoring the Class of 2020

Above: One of the ways Algonquin Regional’s Class of 2020 is being honored is this farewell video by district educators. (from YouTube)

The details for Algonquin Regional High School’s graduation have been released. It’s not the celebration petitioners are asking for, but graduates will be able to cross a stage, get diplomas, and turn tassels in front of relatives.

A letter yesterday afternoon outlined the plans for the Class of 2020 graduation. The diploma ceremony will take place on Sunday, June 7 from 8:00 am – 12:30 pm and 1:30 – 6:00 pm, rain or shine.

The message explains that graduates will sign up for specific time slots for them to drive up with family. Each graduate’s audience is capped at two “family-sized vehicles” of “standard width and size”. Cars will drive up for the allotted time.

Family members/friends must remain inside cars. Graduates will each be allowed 1-2 minutes on the stage while professional photos are taken. Cars are to leave immediately after.

Q&As note that families and friends aren’t allowed to “line the driveway, parking lots or route 20 access road to celebrate as we drive by”. They also won’t be allowed to decorate the campus:

Although we appreciate the overwhelming community support to add additional celebratory items to this day, we are reserving space for our clubs, athletic and competitive teams, academic departments and committees to post signs of support.

The drive in ceremony is phase 5 of the schools plan for honoring Seniors. The letter also lists a future 6th phase, a “Class of 2020 Late Fall Celebration” with details to be announced in the fall.

It appears that the announcement wasn’t in keeping with what some petitioners for a different celebration had been expecting to hear yesterday.

As I posted on Thursday, a gofundme page was set up to purchase facemasks for the senior class. Organizers’ message referenced a petition urging for “a more collaborative approach to the ceremony”, voices believed to have been heard, and hopes for a “(partially) in-person, socially distant and safe event”. I looked for the petition and found it.

A petition “Algonquin Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremony” petition was posted about 3 weeks ago and “signed” by over 1,000. The message lamented “that the decision to hold or not hold a graduation ceremony for the Algonquin class of 2020 is being made without input from the families of those graduating.” It followed:

Although holding a virtual ceremony is likely the only safe option today, many of us feel that it would be feasible to plan a graduation ceremony later in the summer, if and when it is safe to do so, especially having access to the many outdoor fields that Algonquin is lucky to be able to utilize. Perhaps we only allow for limited guests and spread out across the fields. Surely we as a community can brainstorm and make this happen in a safe and effective way, as many other local communities are doing the same.

Yesterday’s letter seemed to indicate that it was following up to clarify details on the phased celebration plan announced on May 6th. It didn’t indicate that the plan incorporated any changes based on public feedback.**

The fundraising page was updated twice yesterday afternoon. The first update noted appreciation for the quick success in raising funds for masks. The second followed the school’s announcement. Organizer, Southborough’s Stefanie Ranieri Cappello wrote:

Earlier today the ARHS ADMIN released a PLAN that is NOT representative of the discussions and proposals that we submitted.

At this time we are going to stop accepting donations for the masks. We are working on a CONCRETE ACCEPTABLE SAFE GRADUATION CELEBRATION that includes the 338 graduating ARHS SENIORS IN ONE LOCATION on June 7, 2020.

We have raised over $6000 in less than 72 hours because of your generosity and support. We can’t thank you all enough. We will update you tomorrow on our progress.

Also, as we work towards the celebration our students deserve, we are looking for help to compile or retrieve a list of each students name, plans for the Fall, and parent/guardian contact information. Please email with any information or ideas on how to do so.

Again, thank you all so much and you will hear from us soon!

A commenter to yesterday’s blog post lists ceremonies and car parades being held in other communities. An article in the Community Advocate last week shared district Superintendent Gregory Martineau’s explanation for why a “rolling rally” had been ruled out for Algonquin: 

Martineau reached out to the Town Administrators and safety officials and it was decided that it could not be done safely.

“The plan would have involved over 200 cars travelling through winding roads,” said Martineau. “A community parade takes months to plan the logistics and to ensure safety.”

Seniors will each get a faculty parade of sorts prior to graduation day. Earlier this week, ARHS Principal Dr. Sara Pragluski Walsh informed me: 

Swag bag deliveries will occur on June 2 and June 4 ~ 11:30 – 2:00 pm in which yellow buses with ARHS faculty will hand-deliver (proper social distancing in place) all 338 students their cap and gown, honor cords as well as other graduation and celebratory items. The buses will be followed by faculty cars decorated and creating a fun momentous event for each student (it is a ton of teamwork but so worth it!)

Yard signs were made available for pickup starting this week. Or seniors can have them delivered with the swag bags.

Yesterday’s announcement referred to phases leading up to graduation that include Senior Night. Walsh explained to me that the Senior Award’s night will be pre-recorded and released out to families. This week, they were still trying to collect final information on local scholarships and awards. They hope to record that next week, then edit and release “shortly thereafter”.

The Community Advocate article notes that the drive up ceremony will be recorded by Northborough Cable Access. The school is also creating a “Video Graduation” (phase 3) that will incorporate photos of seniors in caps and gowns, brief videos of them turning tassels, recorded speeches by faculty and students, and student musical performances. That is scheduled to be released on June 30th.

In other efforts to honor students, the Fine Arts and Athletics departments have been posting artist/athlete profiles of the week on social media. And spring coaches have been celebrating senior athletes individually with special deliveries and surprises. (For tweets honoring ARHS senior athletes, click here. For musician spotlights, click here.)

*The petition doesn’t show the date of posting, but the oldest comments on the site are listed as “3 weeks ago”. If you clicked on the  link, you may have seen less than 1,000 signatures. That’s because seems to engineers its sites to give an impression of active engagement in front of your eyes. When you visit a petition, the number of signatures begin at 0 and increases over time, temporarily stalling at a lower figure than the current total.

**Graduation plans were on the agenda for the Regional School Committee Meeting the night before the letter was released, as was Audience Sharing. Unfortunately, I didn’t join the webinar and no video has been posted by Northborough Cable Access as of yet. So, I can’t share if there were any comments by committee members or the public on the situation.

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John Kendall
4 years ago

It’s a darned shame that this is the way graduation has to be, but at least there’s some sort of ceremony. Congratulations to ARHS class of 2020!

Kelly Hurley
3 years ago

I must say that I speak for myself in expressing my profound disappointment with the current plan, which in our opinion lacks creativity and fails to honor our students in any meaningful way.

In my opinion, and the opinion of many other parents and students, a sign-up genius called “diploma distribution” is beyond anticlimactic to be brutally honest, makes this process even more isolating and sad for these kids.

We can do much better than that.

The 7 page document emailed by Dr. Walsh even lacks a celebratory tone- Phase 5 is Diploma Distribution! I would not call this a ceremony.

High School graduation is a once in a lifetime moment, a time to be joyous and celebrated even in a pandemic times. We, as a 2 town regional high school, can’t figure out a way like so many surrounding schools, to offer something exciting for these kids?

Do you know Marlborough was featured in the New York Times? Wachusett has a 30 mile 5 town car procession, Wellesley-a town wide parade? All at safe distances, in vehicles with parents.

We aren’t asking for a Macy’s Day Parade or even to be outside our vehicles.

Is asking for one car per Senior with their family remaining in vehicles and the lass of 2020 to be TOGETHER (AT THE SAME TIME) on campus for a brief time too much to ask? I think not.

We have a 40 acres facility.

We can’t get support for a car procession, even we asked can they drive in circles on campus. Maybe Southborough Senior Center can help us? They pulled off a parade. Seniors helping Seniors!

Instead, we have a signup genius, that runs all day (8:30-6), 10 minute window, hope your graduate was lucky enough to grab a slot and they actually know the kid ahead of them or behind them so they can offer a clap and cheer as they run back to their car because they have 2 minutes (found on page 3-NO STOPPING) . Your child literally grabs their diploma off a table themselves walks across a stage and then asked to exit the school property not even being able to cheer each other on with a beep or a wave.

I believe we can do better.

RN and ARHS parent 2003 and 2006
3 years ago

This is a pandemic. We cannot be too careful. Yes, it is disappointing for the seniors but they will go on and graduate in a moment of history. I believe the educators and the powers that be are doing all that they can to keep this event safe for everyone. We need to work together and stop criticizing others. Congratulations ARHS class of 2020.

Kate Noke
3 years ago

I completely understand that students and families are disappointed, but as a parent who has had three children graduate from high school (and college!) I have to confess that I feel a certain sense of envy. Not to have to face a struggle to find a parking space, countless hours of speeches, unrelenting heat, pressing crowds and a long line of vehicles leaving the campus…sigh. All schools are doing the best that they can. I would urge folks to remember that this year is one for the history books, so graduates can be assured a great story for their own kids.

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