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BASD looks to laud grads

District vows to find way to celebrate graduating class

BELLWOOD — Bellwood-Antis School District officials have announced options to recognize members of the Class of 2020 for their accomplishments, even if it is done remotely.

“The environment will dictate what we can and can’t pursue. We must remain as flexible as we can for as long as we can,” Richard Schreier, high school principal, said in a letter sent to parents. “Unfortunately, we have received little positive news about the state government’s decisions to end social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions.

“The goal is to provide seniors with an opportunity to be recognized as they prepare to end their 13-year journey at Bellwood-Antis School District and move on to the next chapter of their lives. The proposal will outline various events planned for the end of the year. As we get closer to each event, more specifics will be communicated based on what governmental recommendations permit.”

Tentative plans call for cap and gown distribution and a photo in late May, as well as locker cleanout, and iPad and book returns.

On June 4, the original graduation date, Bellwood-Antis will participate in WJAC-TV’s Broadcast-Virtual Graduation Program at 1:30 p.m. on Channel 6, CW, and available at WJACtv.com. It will include a recording of an abbreviated BAHS graduation program, including speeches by the valedictorian, salutatorian, principal and recognition of all graduates.

If Blair County receives a green rating by June 4, Bellwood-Antis will proceed with a traditional graduation at 7 p.m.

If under a red or yellow rating, plans call for a “Bellwood Parade Route Procession of Graduates” beginning at 6:30 p.m., led by the Excelsior Volunteer Fire Department.

The processional would be for graduates and families; community members must practice proper social distancing if they chose to view anywhere along the parade route.

Upon arrival at school from Martin Street, the graduate will exit the cars in front of auditorium steps. The superintendent and principal will announce, greet and award diplomas.

The family in the car will have the opportunity to view the graduate receive diploma. Manning Photography will take a picture of the graduate receiving a diploma and diploma distribution will be broadcast live and recorded.

“The overwhelming majority of respondents to the senior survey preferred that a “traditional commencement ceremony” be observed later in the summer, if possible. Many students also indicated a desire for a prom or senior dance and the opportunity to hang out with their friends “one more time.” The virtual commencement and diploma distribution in June will ensure that our graduates are recognized,” Schreier said.

Another option would be to have a two-day traditional graduation ceremony July 23 and 24.

“If social distancing does not allow this to happen by the end of July, I fear that our ability to gather will have passed, as some students will be leaving for college, workforce or boot camps,” Schreier said. “These decisions were not easy. This process has been difficult as our decision making is based on unknown variables — COVID-19 and state regulations.

“This plan is to recognize the seniors at the end of the school year, while also having another option to have one last hurrah together before they all go their separate ways,” Schreier said. “This provides an outline of proposed events. As we get closer to each event, more detailed instructions will be provided. Please enjoy the remainder of your senior year and prepare to make final memories with your classmates at your graduation.”

Superintendent Thomas McInroy said it has been a difficult year for all students.

“The seniors have an extra bittersweet experience as these students will not have the opportunity to participate in the playoffs for the winter season, participate in their spring sports, concerts or the musical,” McInroy said. “We all feel bad for the seniors. We are trying to do our best under the circumstances to make graduation as special as we can.

“We want our students to know that these are unusual times and we were forced to take unusual steps to preserve the health, safety and welfare of all of our students. I want our graduates to know that we love them, wish them the best and we will miss them. With that said, we know the character and ability of our seniors and we are confident that they will be successful in their future. I want to personally wish the Class of 2020 the best. Congratulations,” McInroy said.

Some still want ceremony

BELLWOOD — The topic of graduation for the Class of 2020 came up in the final minutes of Tuesday night’s Bellwood-Antis School Board meeting when board member Kevin Luensmann said he had been contacted by several people about having the graduation ceremony June 4 at the high school football field — whether permitted under Gov. Tom Wolf’s orders or not.

“Would we be willing to defy the governor’s orders and direct the administration to make plans?” Luensmann asked fellow board members. “People wanted me to bring this up. I have a son graduating. I am saying there are people who want to have graduation come hell or high water.”

Board member Katherine Burch said she was undecided on the idea.

“You would have to reconfigure the stadium to encourage social distancing. I am not concerned about the students, but the people attending. High school graduation really matters.”

Board President Robert Fisher and Solicitor Jennifer Dambeck did not endorse the idea.

“I am not in favor of defying the order,” Fisher said. “We need to follow the order whether we agree with it or not.”

“This is a school board decision. We would always recommend following the guidelines of the CDC, (state Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel) Levine and Governor Wolf at this point,” Dambeck said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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