Seniors submit clips for virtual graduation

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BRATTLEBORO — Seniors at Brattleboro Union High School will be filming 20- to 30-second segments to be featured in a virtual graduation ceremony that will combine elements of live footage with recorded clips.

"This clip can be of the family congratulating the graduate or the senior wishing their classmates well," Principal Steve Perrin wrote in a letter sent to families Tuesday, noting that videos should be appropriate for a school setting. "We'll be working with our video production company to weave these into the ceremony."

The ceremony will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 19, the same day it was scheduled prior to the coronavirus pandemic. It will include "time honored" school traditions such as student speakers and musical performances, and a speech from a a faculty member, according to the letter.

School staff are looking at ways to make sure the event is broadcast via different formats.

"One of the elements that is central to graduation and important to graduates is the presentation of diplomas and recognition of each member of the Class," Perrin wrote. "We will incorporate this into the ceremony."

Caps and gowns will be distributed to seniors in advance so they can wear them if they want. The plan is to send more specific directions out to families in the coming weeks.

The senior class is made up of 210 students, Perrin told the Reformer. Earlier this month, they were informed that gatherings of more than 10 people would not be permitted in Vermont so graduations needed to be reimagined.

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The Vermont Agency of Education encouraged schools "to plan creatively with their communities for opportunities to celebrate milestones and graduations in ways that are safe and supportive of students and their achievements."

Perrin told families that given current constraints, having an in-person ceremony would not be feasible. Vehicle-based ceremonies were considered, he said, "but that still leaves open the real possibility of transmission between people in attendance."

Some schools are delaying graduation with hopes that a traditional ceremony can be scheduled during the summer, Perrin wrote.

"We hope to have an event once conditions permit, but we feel strongly that our seniors deserve closure for their high school career in a timely manner," he added. "Having our ceremony on June 19 does not preclude the possibility that we can celebrate together at a later time."

Perrin described himself as being "acutely aware that is not the way we wanted to celebrate the academic, social and cocurricular accomplishments of our graduates." He noted that seniors have missed out on prom, spring sports and other events that mark the completion of high school this year.

"The Class of 2020 has worked hard since they started their education 13 years ago," he wrote. "This is not what this excellent class deserves. At this time however, our decision must be informed by what is prudent and responsible for us as a member of the community. We are looking forward to creating a memorable ceremony for the Class of 2020 and are confident that we can collectively celebrate this graduating class."

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


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