HAVERHILL — The Haverhill High graduating Class of 2020 deserves something extra special, according to school Principal Glenn Burns.
After all, he said, the students not only missed out on fall activities like their annual bonfire, but now they’re forced to bypass senior year rites of passage like prom and the pomp and circumstance of walking across the stage at Haverhill stadium to accept their diplomas.
Facing the coronavirus pandemic, Haverhill public schools officials have been forced to get creative to keep students engaged with their studies. Burns and his colleagues followed suit when it came to designing ways to honor this year’s approximately 400 graduates.
“They’re a great group of kids who persevered and made the best of what they had,” Burns said. “They kept plugging along.”
Instead of families gathering at the stadium to watch students accept their diplomas from Mayor James Fiorentini, this year the presentations will take place at the high school in front of the iconic Thinker statue.
“It will be a very controlled situation that follows all social distancing guidelines,” Burns said.
Individual students will be assigned a time slot to appear at the Thinker in their cap and gown, and photos will be taken as diplomas are given to students. Each student’s walk across the school courtyard will be filmed by HC Media local cable TV and compiled into a broadcast to be aired on Friday, June 5, the night students were originally supposed to gather for graduation.
Due to the city’s ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people because of the COVID-19 crisis, only the graduate and their immediate family will be able to attend the sessions at the Thinker, Burns said. The sessions will take place within the next two to three weeks. Students will receive a phone call from the school to confirm their participation.
Additional details will be provided at the end of this week on the Haverhill High School website at haverhill-ps.org, via email and on social media, Burns said.
Graduation isn’t the only way Hillie seniors will be celebrated.
The school’s annual Night of Stars event, at which students are awarded scholarships, will be carried out in virtual form, similar to the way this year’s NFL draft was done, with players appearing by video at home as they received the news they were drafted, Burns said. This year, school officials are asking students receiving scholarships and their families to participate in the ceremony via GoogleMeets — and everyone in the school community is invited to watch.
“We want to celebrate all of our students receiving scholarships and we’ll be asking our families to participate,” Burns said. “We’ll ask each student receiving a scholarship to say a few words, then we’ll put that link out to the community so that they can be part of the celebration.”
Prom remains on hold. While Burns said school officials had hoped to have the event over the summer, it will likely be pushed until the fall. He said a breakfast the morning of the Thanksgiving Day football game is also in the works, as is the rescheduling of the annual bonfire and other events lost due to EEE. The threat of that mosquito-carrying disease forced a variety of nighttime events to be canceled last fall in the early part of the school year.