WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Graduation season is right around the corner and many districts in the North Country are preparing for another new year of celebrating graduates.
One of the largest districts in the area, the Watertown City School District, officially announced last month that the Class of 2021 will be able to gather together one last time.
Watertown High School Principal shared that this was the highest priority when initially planning the ceremony, but the District had to overcome many obstacles.
“Being a larger district in our area, we have as a high school over a thousand students and of those thousand students, we have 230 to 250 on any given year, graduates,” stated Fairchild. “This year we have a good sized class, about 238 seniors. So the obstacle is, how do you with COVID? How do you keep all of those kids safe?”
But Fairchild said the solution was easy: take the ceremony outside.
Now, for the first time in decades, the Watertown City School District will host its annual graduation ceremony on its sports stadium turf.
The full graduating will be permitted to attend along with four guests.
This initial plan was followed by new guidance from New York State that the graduating students did not count in the overall capacity number and that COVID-19 tests were not required for attendees.
But as Fairchild shared, many students have larger family or close friends group. To accommodate, the High School will host a parade allowing Class of 2021 fans to line Washington Street and areas around the turf and cheer on their graduate, ultimately giving them the “red carpet treatment.”
“We just want it to be a big fun event for our students and for their families, because we want to celebrate them in big measure,” expressed Fairchild.
Adding, “we’ve actually got our hands on a red carpet. So we want to give them the red carpet treatment as they come into the stadium. Just have people there clapping. Maybe some of the staff around the district, their kindergarten teacher, first grade, second grade, bus drivers,, nurses, whoever wants to be there.”
However attendees will still be required to wear a face mask, complete a health screening and social distance by family.
Graduates will be permitted to both decorate their caps and remove face masks for photo opportunities, including a staged “Hollywood photo booth.” Fans of the graduating seniors can also bring in posters to line the stadium with.
To conclude, Fairchild shared his pride in the Class of 2021 and his excitement regarding plans for graduation.
“I mean, yes, there are the parents and grandparents that have raised them and their family. But they’ve come to be our own kids too. And so to be able to do this for them and to celebrate them in a big measure, just brings us a lot of joy,” stated Fairchild.
Noting, “they say it takes a village to raise a kid? I would say that it takes a whole community to help a kid graduate and we have this amazing community and to be able to celebrate our kids together is wonderful.”