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Lenox pledges to honor high school graduates live or virtually

The Lenox School committee met via Zoom video conferencing software at their Monday, April 27 meeting.

LENOX — Whether a graduation ceremony for the Lenox Memorial High School class of 2020 will be held in person, virtually, or by a parade of cars has yet to be decided.

But what is known for the outgoing senior class is that they will be celebrated in a way like no other has before.

Entering their seventh week outside of physical school, members of the Lenox School Committee along with input from students and faculty, have begun strategizing a way to honor their soon-to-be graduates.

A modified in-person graduation, within social distancing guidelines, was left on the table in the possibility that everyday life returns to normal, in a world before COVID-19.

However, members of the Lenox School Committee as well as Lenox Memorial Middle and High School (LMMHS) Principal Michael Knybel are preparing for a “hybrid” option that includes both virtual and in-person techniques.

“The hybrid [option] is a little better than being totally virtual,” Knybel said at the Monday, April 27 meeting of the Lenox School Committee, held via Zoom video conferencing software. “I guess it would be somewhat miraculous at this point, but I also see states relaxing guidelines everywhere, so there might be a live graduation of some sort, with social distancing. It depends on what will be allowed at the time.”

Knybel said a hybrid option would include the graduating class gathering in person, under social distancing guidelines, and having the ceremony of under 100 people broadcast live via CTSB. Although no contract has been signed, Knybel told the committee he believes this would be done free of charge by the local public access channel.

The scheduled graduation ceremony date has been set for Sunday, June 14 to be held on the stage of the Shed at Tanglewood.

“They would host the live web link for those that are outside the viewing area of CTSB. just like they would view this meeting live, if we were still in Town Hall and they were filming it,” said Knybel.

In the case that cancellations of events and gatherings are extended through the month of June and beyond, arrangements for the senior class’ award night and graduation ceremony will be made to abide by local and state recommendations, said Knybel.

“If there is the possibility of involving the entire senior class, by having them parade by to pick up a diploma folder, we will proceed and try to include that in the ceremony,” he said. “If that is out of the question, and we don’t have the health department’s permission, then I’ve already spoken with our police and fire [departments] and they are willing to help us out with a senior car parade.”

No matter which option is ultimately decided on, Knybel said he would like to see a live “repeat” graduation ceremony, or a senior banquet dinner, held in the future. But celebrating the students’ accomplishments in the moment will be required, too, he added.

“I do feel, as school concludes for our seniors, we need to mark the moment,” he said. “We don’t want to pick a date way out in August right now and hope that things are going to be different, and that they will feel this same spirit that they will feel in these last days.”

Karen Romeo-Leger, an art teacher and class advisor at LMMHS, said she gathered input from the senior class through a survey about how they would want their graduation ceremony to look like.

She said despite some seniors brainstorming ways to hold a safe ceremony, there are some students still struggling with the reality of not having a normal graduation.

“The seniors are wrestling with the reality of this,” said Romeo-Leger. “They want to celebrate with each other. Of course they want the normal, but that is not going to happen.”

Romeo-Leger’s daughter, Maxime, is the senior class vice president and was listening in on the virtual meeting as well.

School Committee member Robert Munch cautioned against trying to recreate a traditional graduation ceremony under the current circumstances. A town parade could be a viable option in the future, he said.

“Think as far outside of the box as you can,” Munch suggested to both Knybel and Romeo-Leger. “I’m not convinced that 100 people in the shed staying 10 feet apart is going to feel very special. We may have to really think about something that the kids can remember, and makes an impact and makes them feel appreciated.”

Knybel added that if a future ceremony is to be held for the class of 2020, the availability of the Tanglewood site — and even some college-bound students — could be in question.

Although a plan has yet to be decided on, the school committee anticipates a collaborative effort with students in coming up with a safe and memorable graduation event.

“We’re not going to leave them out of any ideas,” he said. “Sometimes they come up with better ideas because this technology stuff they really have us beat on.”

The next School Committee meeting will be held on Monday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m.

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