Middletown high schoolers protest over graduation uncertainty
MIDDLETOWN — Members of the Class of 2020 from both of the township's public high schools spent Monday morning lobbying for in-person graduations, now that Gov. Phil Murphy announced socially distant celebrations are allowed, starting next month.
Middletown Schools Superintendent William George shared a photo on Twitter, writing that he enjoyed a conversation with graduating seniors who had turned up in person, with masks and homemade signs, to rally for an in-person ceremony this summer.
"We will include #StudentVoice in decision making on the final graduation ceremonies," George wrote.
"To provide our seniors with the best graduation experience possible, we are willing to change the timeline for graduation events and potentially hold a ceremony in August with the hope that Governor Murphy relaxes the restrictions for graduations," George wrote in a Sunday update shared to the district's school websites.
As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, the district previously had been planning to carry out just virtual ceremonies, as there remains an in-person limit of 10 people indoors or 25 outdoors, under state restrictions to stem the spread of the virus. Gov. Phil Murphy's office has said graduations will be limited to whatever sizes the state is allowing for gatherings overall come early July — though it's not clear if or when the current 25-person limit would be expanded. Some districts are planning a series of smaller ceremonies to keep crowd sizes small.
The principals of Middletown High School North and Middletown High School South, Patricia Vari-Cartier and Matthew Kirkpatrick respectively, were meeting virtually with student leaders at 1 p.m.
After Murphy announced a rollback of restrictions on any in-person graduations May 26, districts began plotting out draft plans of what ceremonies might look like, with a capacity still to be determined in a few weeks.
"If we have to do multiple smaller ceremonies, then we will," Freehold Regional High School District Superintendent Charles Sampson said, adding his district was proceeding with a virtual graduation June 24, and an in-person graduation July 27 and potentially other dates.
Toms River Regional Schools Superintendent David Healy said it's always been his intention to host in-person ceremonies for the outgoing seniors at the district's three high schools.
With previous reporting by Dino Flammia and David Matthau