Appoquinimink School District aims for traditional ceremony with July commencement

MIDDLETOWN — Plans for an Appoquinimink School District graduation come in threes, with hopes for a traditional commencement, but with the possibility of a drive-up ceremony in July.

All potential ceremonies are scheduled for July 14 (Appoquinimink High School) or July 15 (Middletown High School), with rain dates for July 16 and 17, respectively.

“We thought it was important to keep the dates the same,” said Ray Gravuer, Appoquinimink School District supervisor of special programs. “Plan A to B to C are contingencies of worst case scenario as we move further down.”

Plan A, as discussed at Thursday’s school board workshop, saw a graduation ceremony at Jaguar Stadium, rather than the typical celebration at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark. Students would receive six tickets each for guests.

Plan B would be a “live socially distanced mini-graduation ceremony.” Also set for Jaguar Stadium, students would be seated across the field at a minimum of six feet apart and the audience would be limited to parents only.

Both plans require there to be a loosening of current restrictions that allows for larger gatherings.

The final plan would be a mobile drive-up graduation where students would drive to their school. A stage would be set up and the students would exit their car and be greeted by the principal, with graduation music playing. A picture would be taken and the student would cross the stage, while parents remained in the car.

“This, we could do right now,” Mr. Gravuer noted. “But we’re trying to again listen to the graduates and give them the, ‘Hey, the first thing you said was move the graduation date later. So let’s try to do that and be able to celebrate as a class together in the largest group that we can.’”

As Mr. Gravuer alluded, the district’s graduation was informed by what students and parents wanted to see for the commencement. A committee, consisting of different stakeholders in the district, was tasked with considering what an amended celebration would look like.

“Also a recurring theme through our presentation, or our thought process, are from our guiding principles: listen to the graduates. Sometimes they lose their voice in this when parents and administrators and teachers and all the adults get to talk,” Mr. Gravuer noted. “We need to realize, ‘What do the graduates want? What is important to them?’”

Of the 536 students who responded to a survey, most students ranked the ability to walk across the stage as the most important thing about graduation, and a majority preferred pushing back the graduation date to hold a more traditional ceremony.

“Graduation is a really big deal but it’s something that runs seamlessly normally, and there’s a lot of things in our lives that run seamlessly normally that we’re having to give a little more special attention to because of our current situation,” said board member Michele Wall.

The district is also coordinating other efforts to celebrate seniors, like school buses completing an “aerial tribute” (spelling out 2020, as other districts have done), doing a spirit week celebration and awards ceremonies. Principals are planning to send out video messages on June 7 to seniors to acknowledge the original graduation date.

Mr. Gravuer said that a final decision on what graduation ceremony will be held is slated for the end of June, so that there can be a two-week planning period.

In the case that the district can’t hold a live graduation, those who responded to the survey indicated they would like a “reunification celebration,” with an interest in having it during a long weekend in the fall.

The district also rescheduled its prom dates for July, with the hopes that social distancing guidelines will be relaxed. AHS is scheduled for July 23 at Deerfield in Newark and MHS is scheduled for July 30 at the Chase Center in Wilmington.


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