WESTFIELD – Graduation ceremonies have been finalized for Westfield Technical Academy on July 30 at 6 p.m. and Westfield High School on July 31 at 6 p.m.; both on the grounds of Westfield High School.
School Commiittee graduation committee member Ramon Diaz, Jr. gave an update on the plans at the July 16 Special School Committee meeting
Diaz said the committee, composed of senior class officers, class advisers, principals, vice principals, and the superintendent, began looking at the possibilities in May.
“We listened mostly to the students. We talked about what we could do. Their feeling is they’ve been through school for thirteen years with classmates, and wanted any opportunity to graduate together,” Diaz said, adding that by pushing off the date until the end of July they will now be able to graduate together wearing masks at three feet apart.
The stage will be with its back facing Montgomery Road, next to the digital sign as the power source. Families will be able to park and stay in their cars, facing the students. The ceremony will be broadcast on YouTube, so families can see it live and watch and listen to it in their cars on devices. “This gives students the ability to be together, to cheer each other on,” Diaz said, adding that they couldn’t hold a regular ceremony safely.
Diaz said that Westfield Technical Academy Principal Joseph Langone and Westfield High School Principal Charles Jendrysik are drafting details on what will and won’t be allowed at the graduation.
“We are working with Westfield Police, Fire, and the Health Department to ensure that we hold the ceremony with safety procedures and protocols in mind. We also have specific guidelines from the state that we need to adhere to such as all students will be required to wear masks and adhere to social distance guidelines,” Jendrysik said, adding that the procedures were going out to families on July 17.
“We’re still working out some details but want to have this ceremony. The students of both WTA and WHS deserve to be celebrated,” Jendrysik added.
Langone gave further details in a letter that he sent out to parents. “Due to revised distancing guidelines for students, we are thrilled to announce we will now be able to seat the class in person on the field in front of the digital marquee! However, in order to ensure the highest safety standards for everyone, all guests will be required to remain in their automobiles for the duration of the ceremony,” he explained.
Langone said there will be a strict limit of one automobile per graduate. He said they will begin parking cars, which should enter the property at the back of the parking lot adjacent to the athletic fields, at 5:30 p.m. Cars will be directed to park by members of the Westfield Police and by Westfield Public Schools Staff. “Again, please remember all guests are required to remain in their automobiles for the duration of the ceremony,” he said.
In his letter, Langone also gave instructions on how to access the ceremony via YouTube or Facebook or listen on FM radio from the automobiles. He said for those who would like to watch from the comfort of their homes, the ceremony will also be aired on Channel 15.
WTA graduates were also given instructions to report to Westfield High School on July 28 at 9 a.m. for a brief rehearsal. “At that time, I will provide you with specific instructions regarding your participation in the ceremony. I will also distribute tee-shirts, yearbooks, and graduation awards. Please be sure to wear a mask or facial covering from the time you arrive until your departure. Please remember to adhere to the social distancing guidelines for the duration of the rehearsal,” Langone said.
“I want thank all of you—graduates and parents, guardians, and family members—for your
understanding and cooperation. We look forward to your being with us for this momentous occasion,” Langone said.
Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said rain dates for the ceremonies have been set for Aug. 20 and 21. He said the plans have been reviewed and given clearance by the Board of Health.
“It was that or nothing. We listened to what the students wanted. Some (families) don’t like that. We’re doing the best that we can in the times that we have. I call it a success to get all the students there outside their vehicles,” Diaz said.
Diaz also said that a ceremony for military students, some of whom have already reported, was held in June at the Westfield Technical Academy. He said State Sen. John C. Velis and Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. attended. “There was good representation, and it was a nice ceremony,” he said, adding that the enlisted seniors weren’t going to be there for the July graduation.