Rome, N.Y. - 335 graduating seniors got to walk across the stage at RFA Stadium in Rome on Saturday, as the district decided to give the 2020 graduating class as normal a graduation ceremony as was possible this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Six separate groups of about 56 students each went through their own half hour ceremony, one after the other, beginning at 8:00 A.M., and it was all done alphabetically.
Rome Schools Superintendent Peter Blake says he is very proud of his staff that all worked together to put this ceremony together, especially with all of the state guidelines that needed to be put in place to make sure everyone stayed safe, "The feedback has been, thank you for finding a way to do this. It would’ve been very easy just to do a virtual thing or a drive-through thing. Many districts smaller than us chose to do that and we felt we owed it to our kids to get them as close to a normal ceremony as possible and fortunately we were able to do that."
Blake says there were many steps that had to be taken, "We’ve had to tarp the entire fence line to prohibit mass gatherings of folks outside the property. We’ve had to clean the entire stadium and other student seating in between sessions. Provide PPE for all the kids, masks, gloves. Microphones have to be changed out, cleaned in between each event, socially distancing, the list goes on and probably a little bit further but there’s a lot that goes into it."
Despite all of the safety precautions and even the rain that came down, that didn't dampen the spirits of the students who ultimately did get to walk across a stage, outdoors at RFA Stadium, just as so many classes have done before them.
Senior Trinity Clark who will be attending Delaware State University in the fall to study psychology, says the psychology of making sure this class had an actual graduation was something she and her fellow graduates very much appreciate, "Rather have the tarps up then it get shut down. I feel better that I actually got to walk across the stage."
Clark's parents were equally appreciative of the effort by the district.
Mom, Stephanie Davis-Clark, says the only hard thing was that not all families members could attend, because of the gathering limit, "I am very grateful that the Class of 2020 was able to have a graduation at the stadium that we’ve had for many years, but it does make me sad the other families were not able to attend."
Dad, Darrell Clark, echoed that, "My parents and my brothers and sisters weren’t able to come, but I’m glad it was a safe event and the kids got to enjoy the graduation."
And now they will get to celebrate the rest of the day in their own way, under their family's guidelines.