After hopes of a traditional graduation ceremony were dashed due to coronavirus social distancing rules, Whittier Regional High School seniors are being recognized with signs proclaiming "Proud Family of a Senior!" to display in front of their homes.
The 315 class members will not have many of the traditional graduation activities this year as schools across the state are closed for the remainder of the academic year due to the pandemic.
Instead, Whittier officials said they plan to hold a virtual graduation for the Class of 2020 on May 28 and are also planning to hold an in-person social for graduates and staff in November. Those events will be followed by a traditional graduation ceremony in May of next year, pending the withdrawal of the current social distancing rules, school officials said.
A group of people from the school — more than 35 teachers, administrators, school maintenance workers and Booster Club members — stopped by Whittier last week to pick up the signs, which they delivered to seniors throughout the 11 communities served by the school.
The signs also bear an image of the school's mascot, the Whittier Wildcat, and the words "Class of 2020 Whittier Tech."
"We thought it would be a nice token of appreciation and to show they are supported throughout their communities," said booster parent Heather Rousseau of Haverhill, who has a freshman son at Whittier and another son who graduated last year. "As it is, this year's seniors are going to lose out on a lot."
She said the Booster Club, which supports student athletics at the school, purchased the lawn signs to honor the soon-to-be graduates.
"The intention was to do something good" at a time that has been so negative, Rousseau said.
Booster Club president Janice McNulty of Haverhill saw her son graduate from Whittier last year and has a daughter graduating this year.
"We decided to spend some of the money we raised on signs recognizing all of our seniors," McNulty said. "They will be missing out on senior week, prom night and a traditional graduation on Whittier's sports field."
McNulty said she ordered the signs from a woman in Tewksbury who runs a small arts-and-crafts business and also provides customers with items such as invitations, banners and signs.
"I found the woman on Facebook," McNulty said.
Her daughter, two-time state wrestling champion Catherine McNulty, managed to keep the sign project a secret from her classmates. She expects their families will appreciate the signs.
"The fact that administrators and teachers took time out of their day shows that they care for us during this uncontrollable situation," Catherine said. "We didn't know our last day of school in March would really be our last day. We thought we'd only be out for a few weeks.
"Many of my classmates are upset at the loss of our prom,'' she said. "Many of us bought our dresses and had them altered.''