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Archives Catholic high schools hope to hold graduations

June 10, 2020

By Jessica Hargrave
Contributing Writer

The class of 2020 was left with less pomp and more circumstance when COVID-19 forced schools to cancel scheduled graduation ceremonies. Senior year of high school is very different from most classes before them. No prom. No senior skip day. No closure after years of hard work. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced May 1 that schools across the state would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.

With senior graduation still far enough away, is there time for schools to put a new plan together?

The two high schools within the Diocese of Ogdensburg are trying their best to make that happen.

Principals at Immaculate Heart Central School in Watertown and Seton Catholic Central School in Plattsburgh are awaiting guidelines from the Health Department to put their plans in motion. Both schools are hoping to use their own athletic field for a ceremony, but here will be hurdles.

“One of our major issues is getting people to and from their cars so we’d have to escort people. People want to congregate so we have to prevent that as much as possible,” said Immaculate Heart Principal Dan Charlebois.

Despite no word yet from the Health Department, Charlebois knows other changes would need to be made for an alternative ceremony including no processional and Baccalaureate Mass. The invocation and speeches, however, would still happen.

Charlebois said he makes regular calls to the Health Department to see if receiving guidelines for a ceremony will be possible.

“There’s so many unknowns and we tend to be very fearful because of the unknowns and much of it is patience and trust,” said Charlebois.

Immaculate Heart has 20 seniors who would attend graduation. International students who are seniors were required to return to their home countries due to the pandemic but will still receive their diplomas.

Seton Catholic Principal Mary Forbes is working to bring the 27 seniors together at a safe distance to the best of her ability and include as much of the graduation ceremony as she can.

“I do want if possible, our valedictorian and salutatorian to speak to their classmates,” Forbes said. “That is something I think they have earned, and students also look forward to their fellow students speaking to them.”
While seniors are always proud to don their caps and gowns, this year a mask will most likely be required. But these masks will be special.

“One of the parents was able to find some masks that have the Seton logo on it so the seniors will be getting one of those,” said Forbes.

She and other faculty members understand how missing out on other traditional spring activities have been disappointing for the seniors, including an overnight retreat to Camp Guggenheim and a field day. School administrators were able to salvage one spring tradition, improvising on how they announce the “Senior of the Day.”

Each day is dedicated to one senior student with a profile announcing what students will be doing after high school, their major, and words that describe that student. This year you’ll find the Senior of the Day on Seton Catholic’s homepage of their website. The seniors are also displayed on the digital sign in front of the school.

Despite current events, both Charlebois and Forbes are choosing to be positive and are encouraging their seniors to be positive as well.

Both schools are aiming for a June 20 graduation date, but that date is not set in stone. Also unclear is how many guests each student will be able to invite. The pair are still awaiting guidelines from the Health Department.

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