Clearview officials still hoping for July 16 in-person graduation

Superintendent Horchak said limit on outdoor gatherings could be an issue with holding the event

Clearview Regional High School is still aiming for an in-person graduation on July 16, but school officials say the limit on in-person gatherings needs to increase before that date.

Superintendent John Horchak gave a brief update on the high school’s graduation process at the beginning of the June 18 board of education meeting.  Horchak said the district is proceeding with tentatively holding an in-person graduation on July 16, with a rain date of July 17. However, district officials have some concerns with guidance released in late May from the New Jersey Department of Education.

The DOE’s guidelines detail how schools can conduct modified, in-person ceremonies beginning on July 6. The two biggest requirements for an in-person ceremony is it must be held outdoors and must adhere to whatever capacity limitations are in effect in New Jersey at the time of the ceremony.

The second requirement is what has Clearview officials concerned. At the time of the board of education meeting, the state had put a maximum limit of 100 people for any outdoor gatherings, a number less than half of the total number of Clearview’s graduation class. However Gov. Phil Murphy stated earlier in the month the capacity limit for outdoor gatherings could be increased to 500 on July 3 if COVID-19 numbers continue to trend downward in New Jersey.

Clearview has multiple scenarios for conducting an in-person ceremony at its stadium. According to a letter sent out to parents, one scenario has students sitting in socially distanced spots on the field. Each student would be allowed to bring two parents or guests. The two guests would be allocated specific seats in the bleachers, allowing the school to keep all groups socially distanced. The second scenario would have parents sitting on the field with their child in socially distanced areas. Full details on Clearview’s graduation plans are available at https://clearviewregional.edu/news/district_news/class_of_2020_graduation_information.

“(We’re hopeful that) at least the last memory will be a positive one for all of our seniors,” Horchak said.

On June 16, Clearview broadcast a virtual graduation ceremony. The ceremony wrapped up a big week for the graduating class of 2020, with a virtual senior awards ceremony taking place on Monday, June 15, a virtual graduation the following day and the distribution of diplomas on Wednesday, June 17. The night of the virtual graduation, seniors also got a chance to receive a gift bag with items community members and businesses donated.

Student council representative and 2020 graduate Paige Bathurst thanked school officials for all of the effort put into the year-end events.

“We just want to acknowledge the exciting week that the graduates had,” Bathurst said during the student council report. “We are very grateful for all staff and community members who helped to put these events together.”

Horchak acknowledged there was an issue with the original broadcast of the virtual graduation as it omitted about 15 members of the senior class as they appeared on stage. Within a couple hours of the original broadcast, Clearview issued an apology to the senior class and the community. The video was then re-posted online with the 15 seniors added. Horchak re-iterated the district’s apology at the board meeting.

“Our goal over the last month was to create the best experience for the seniors and their families,” Horchak said following the apology.

The virtual graduation can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bLD_kKs9YI.

The next Clearview Regional High School Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 23. According to the district website, the meeting will only be held if deemed necessary.