Graduation Reimagined: An Unexpected End

An email sent today from Principal Katie Gibson and 12th Grade Dean Anna Howe gave an update on the graduation plans for the Class of 2020 detailing three different graduation possibilities. The updated graduation plans are an extreme shift from what the Class of 2020 had been expecting, according to seniors. 

If the stay-at-home orders are lifted before July 15 and public health guidelines allow for gatherings of more than 50, seniors and their families will be invited to a Drive-Thru Senior Send-Off celebration with seniors arriving in their caps and gowns and receiving their diplomas. The ceremony would include a socially distanced gathering on the field.

The second option, if the stay-at-home order is lifted anytime before July 15 but gatherings of larger than 50 are not allowed, would include a Drive-Thru Senior Send-Off celebration and a virtual ceremony.

If the stay-at-home order is not lifted or is reinstated by July 15, a team of GDS employees will deliver a cap, gown and diplomas to senior’s homes. A virtual ceremony would be held on August 2.

Prior to this email, seniors had been expecting a smaller celebration to commemorate their graduation on June 7—their original graduation date—and that their in-person, normal graduation would be postponed until it was safe to do so.

“I think students just feel a little bit lied to because they really emphasized that they were going to do their best to have some sort of meaningful, in-person graduation,” Talia Rodriguez said.

Seniors have expressed their frustration in response to the school’s plans. Nathaniel Rosenberg responded to Gibson’s email with a series of questions. 

“This email mentions ‘overwhelming feedback’ from the community. What specifically was the consensus in that feedback? Does this decision reflect the most popular/consensus options given in that feedback?” he wrote.

“On grade calls we were informed that the paramount priority was ensuring in-person graduation. What happened to the options for a Thanksgiving or Winter break ceremony? Why would we instead go to virtual, something that students have expressed great dislike for?” Rosenberg’s email continued.

Jara Wilensky sent an email backing up Rosenberg writing, “I am disappointed and was going to ask the same thing.”

Rodriguez is likewise disappointed by the situation, but understands the decision the administration has come to. “Seniors are justified in feeling disappointed, but having all the privileges that we do and also having a school that is working so hard to have a meaningful goodbye for us,” she said. “We have to be able to think of both sides right now.”

The school came to this decision based on Mayor Bowser’s projected timeline for lifting social distancing measures and various predictions for the public health guidelines for group gatherings. “With all of these constantly changing variables at play, we have to make decisions now that will provide you with clarity around a date for graduation,” Gibson’s email read. 

“While we may have immediately planned a virtual graduation ceremony like many peer schools, you provided overwhelming feedback that you wanted a live and in-person graduation experience,” the email stated. “That said, as time goes on, we have to pursue realistic options.”

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