By SCOTT JACKSON
Mayor Thomas Koch said his staff is in the process of planning summer graduation ceremonies at Veterans Memorial Stadium for seniors at the city’s two high schools.
The graduation ceremonies had been scheduled for next month – Quincy High School on June 8 and North Quincy High School on June 9 – but the School Committee on Wednesday formally voted to postpone those ceremonies to a date to be determined. The postponement comes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The seniors will now officially graduate June 10 – when the superintendent announces they have met all the qualifications to do so during a school board meeting set for that night – with the graduation ceremonies later in the summer. In addition, a senior tribute video, honoring members of the graduating class, should be released the week of June 10.
Koch, the committee’s chairman, on May 6 suggested improvements made to Veterans Memorial Stadium by the Boston Cannons, in particular replacing bleachers with seats, would make it possible to hold the graduation ceremonies there this summer.
On Wednesday, Koch said he and his staff were developing plans to hold graduation ceremonies at the stadium this summer. The ceremonies, he said, would be designed with social-distancing guidelines in mind.
“I don’t have a formal plan to put in front of you, but I do think what I had said before is very, very doable. That is a more limited approach to the stage, maybe more limited speaking, spreading the kids out on the field…and then perhaps up to two tickets per family that can be assigned specific seating in the stadium,” Koch said.
“We can spread them out throughout the stadium so that there is that social distancing between families.”
Whatever rules are in place – including a limit on the number of tickets students will receive – must be adhered to, Koch said.
“I think we have to be firm. Everyone has special circumstances and all, but these are unique circumstances. We have got to the stand by the two-ticket rule,” he said. “Whatever we decide on in the end, we have to be firm about it.”
The mayor said he has heard from some people who have suggested families not be allowed to attend, but he believes they should be there.
“There are some people who have said to me, ‘maybe the family doesn’t have to be there,’” Koch said. “If you can have a loved one or two there…I think it is far more valuable and meaningful to the graduate.”
The mayor said the plan could be finalized within two weeks and made public at that time. When the ceremony could be held is still uncertain.
“Obviously, the date is up in the air. We’re not going to have a date for a period of time yet,” Koch said. “It would be great to have it before the end of June, but I don’t even want to begin to guess on that.”
Committee member Paul Bregoli said Koch’s concept was doable and something the seniors deserve to have.
“I’m glad to hear the mayor is moving forward with this plan,” Bregoli said. “I think it is doable. It is something I think the kids deserve and I think we should do everything that we can in our power to make sure it happens.”
Committee member Doug Gutro thanked Koch for trying to work out a way to hold graduation ceremonies in person.
“Thanks to the mayor for being pragmatic and trying to come up with a responsible and safe way to potentially have an in-person meeting,” Gutro said. “I know a lot goes into that and events, as they evolve, could negate that as being an option at the end of the day.”
Gutro also suggested the presidents of both high schools’ senior classes be given the chance to speak at an upcoming School Committee to share their experiences in recent months. In addition, he asked that school officials reach out to notable alumni from both schools who could appear in the tribute video school officials are working on. Superintendent Richard DeCristofaro was receptive to both of Gutro’s suggestions.
Anthony Andronico, the committee’s vice chairman, asked Koch if the city planned to install banners honoring the seniors on light posts in the city. Koch said there would not enough light posts to honor each senior individually – as some communities have done – but banners honoring the class as a whole could be installed in the city’s business districts.