With restrictions on large gatherings making graduation ceremonies untenable, high schools in the East Mountains and Estancia Valley found alternative solutions to celebrate the pageantry of graduation.
“[Graduation] is a life event, like getting married or having a kid. It’s something that everybody celebrates with you,” Moriarty High School Principal Robert Adams said. “We want to make it as special as possible.”
At Moriarty High School, Adams said they’ve put together a slideshow celebrating graduates. But that’s just a holdover. Like many other area high schools, Adams said Moriarty High School is planning a graduation ceremony this summer.
Whether that’s the traditional set-up, where a few thousand graduates with their families pack the gym, or something more in line with social distancing, like having groups of graduates pick up their diplomas and leave, is still in question for Moriarty High School, according to Adams.
He said it depends on summer guidelines and restrictions from the state.
A Public Education Department (PED) memorandum sent May 15 told superintendents and charter school leaders that graduation ceremonies should:
- strictly follow current public health orders and guidance issued by the state
- be limited to students and family members, who must stay in their vehicles on school grounds, other public areas, and private parking areas used to facilitate any commemoration
- require that anyone on the premises who is not a school official must stay inside a vehicle.
The memorandum also told administrators to wear masks and disinfect shared equipment like microphones. It also recommended hosting virtual graduations.
“After PED announced their guidelines for graduation we adjusted our plans,” East Mountain High School assistant principal Amanda Forkasdi Millea said.
East Mountain opted for virtual graduation, with plans for a traditional ceremony on July 25.
Forkasdi Millea said the virtual event will resemble a traditional ceremony. It includes a slideshow that features photos of the graduates—one baby picture and one senior picture—along with their senior quote. Forkasdi Millea also said the school is working on a senior wall where student’s parents and friends can post their pictures and messages about their graduates.
While the area’s bigger schools are looking to combine virtual and in-person events, Mountainair High School, with 13 graduates this year, and Estancia Valley Classical Academy, with 14 graduates, have smaller affairs in mind.
Mountainair High School plans on a “reverse parade” graduation on May 22 at 7 p.m.
The 13 graduating seniors will ascend stage at Mountainair High School, have their photos taken, stand six feet apart from each other while their peers receive diplomas, while family members sequestered in cars watch, according to Mountainair Public Schools Superintendent Dawn Apodaca.
“Then the staff can come through and give them congratulatory honks and waves and yells, no one gets out of their car,” Apodaca said.
Apodaca said the district has already recorded speeches by herself, the principal and others for Friday’s ceremony. She said they plan to post speeches on YouTube to memorialize the occasion.
Mountainair High School’s reverse parade is similar to how Estancia Valley Classical Academy did theirs.
“I think our graduation drive-by that we did really boosted [students’] morale,” Tim Beard, dean of students at Estancia Valley Classical Academy, said.
Beard said the Academy is considering the drive-by graduation next year too, even if public health restrictions aren’t in place. He said they too planned a traditional graduation on July 9.
“They’re special,” Forkasdi Millea said of East Mountian High School’s Class of 2020. “They’re special in a variety of different ways for being so resilient for adapting to change, for being positive for coming together as a community. The class of 2020 is an incredible bunch of students.”