By PJ Ferguson

The Whitehall Central School District has plans for both an “in-person and virtual” graduation ceremony but is awaiting guidance from the governor’s office before making any final decisions.

While the state has entered Phase Two of re-opening, gatherings of 10 or more people are still banned under the governor’s executive orders.

However, if permission is granted from the governor and the Washington County Department of Public Health, a drive-in ceremony will take place in the high school parking lot, according to interim principal John Godfrey.

Whitehall Jr. Sr. High School interim principal John Godfrey

“It is our desire to have an in-person ceremony,” said Godfrey, stating that set-up would include a stage in the lot with families observing the “traditional” graduation activities from the comfort of their vehicles.

The ceremony is set to take place on Friday, June 26, at 7 p.m., if state guidelines permit it.

The plans for a virtual ceremony include offering five family members to watch their senior graduate walk across the auditorium stage, be handed a mock diploma with their awards if applicable, receive a photo op and exiting stage left, with the entire proceedings being recorded.

Each senior would have their own time slot to come to the school, to ensure social distancing guidelines are met and no overlap occurs.

The virtual ceremony will then be aired on Channel 6 WRGB at a time to be determined. The ceremony will also air online, and school officials are working with the IT department to decide what platform to use.

While the school is currently scheduling with students to prepare for this virtual ceremony, Godfrey and other school officials are still holding out in hopes to hold the in-person event. While Godfrey admits that “more notice would be nice,” the district will be ready to “roll out” the in-person ceremony up to the last minute.

“Regardless, we are working to make it special for the seniors and their families,” said Godfrey.

Seniors, their families and community members have criticized the school online in hopes that they will hold an event of some sort for the graduating class, beyond a virtual meeting.

“We hear them,” said Godfrey, responding to the community’s concerns. “We certainly think they deserve everything past graduation classes have received before them. We’re proud of them and want to make sure it’s as special as can be under the circumstances.”

If the virtual ceremony occurs, seniors will receive their diplomas via a drive-by procession in the high school bus circle on Saturday, June 27 at 10 a.m.

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