Leland & Gray plans live graduation ceremony

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TOWNSHEND — Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School is hosting graduation in person at the same time and place as scheduled, but with certain restrictions deemed appropriate for the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's truly a gift for these 32 students, as no area schools are doing what we're doing this June!" Principal Bob Thibault wrote this week to families, referring to how the pandemic has affected local plans for graduation ceremonies. "After 13 years of formal education, they have had three months of the most unprecedented experiences in modern history. A mere week ago, we were planning how to do a graduation without every student present at the same time, in the event that our mid-summer plan didn't pan out. And now, we are hastily creating a plan for a live graduation."

The Vermont Agency of Education said if health guidance changes to allow gatherings of 25 people, which it did in Vermont, "schools can congregate graduates and their families in small groups of 25 spaced at least 6 feet apart to safely and responsibly accommodate a much bigger audience."

"It would just need to be organized in such a way that group sizes do not exceed the allowed threshold and all other health guidance is met," the department said.

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The outdoor June 13 ceremony at L&G begins at 10 a.m. and each graduate will only be allowed to have six guests. Brattleboro Community Television will offer a livestream broadcast of the event.

All graduates, school staff and spectators will be required to wear face coverings. No one with pending COVID-19 tests, positive tests or symptoms will be allowed to attend. Neither will out-of-state guests unless they have already quarantined for 14 days in Vermont.

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"Families and other trusted friends/households will be seated in a socially-distanced 'pod' of six, and will be required to remain unless directed to depart," Thibault wrote. "No leaving the pod to photograph graduates will be allowed (there will be a school-paid professional photographer present who will provide all digital pictures free of charge)."

Families will be arriving on a "staggered time schedule" and departing in a similar manner. Thibault warned that attendees who do not follow the rules will be escorted off campus or the ceremony could be prematurely ended.

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"Now, I'm sure that this all sounds pretty harsh and limiting but I am sure you will appreciate the efforts being made by Leland & Gray to even make this event possible, rather than delaying or having a virtual or 'drive-up' graduation ceremony," he wrote. "Please join me in ensuring that your family members adhere to the rules, in order to both ensure the health and wellness of our community and the integrity of the program."

Class Night will not happen this year. The awards and scholarships normally given at the event will be presented during the graduation.

June 14 is the rain date.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.


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