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Barrington students try to save their graduation ceremony

Students oppose online event: 'We want a connection that's not a wifi connection'

By Josh Bickford
Posted 5/3/20

They lost their spring sports season.

They lost their prom.

And now it appears Barrington High School students may lose their graduation ceremony.

The BHS Class of 2020 has faced one …

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Barrington students try to save their graduation ceremony

Students oppose online event: 'We want a connection that's not a wifi connection'

Posted

They lost their spring sports season.

They lost their prom.

And now it appears Barrington High School students may lose their graduation ceremony.

The BHS Class of 2020 has faced one cancelation after another this spring as officials called off events and extended distance learning due to concerns over the coronavirus.

A few weeks ago, school officials announced that they were considering holding a virtual graduation online, but members of the senior class voiced strong opposition to that idea. And now there is an effort underway to rally support to preserve an actual, physical high school graduation ceremony, even if it means pushing it off until later in the summer or changing the normal procedure to ensure social distancing is maintained.

Barrington High School senior Maddie Lauria recently created an online petition titled "Delay BHS graduation to the summer rather than holding it online." Approximately 1,500 people signed the petition in less than a week, and many have shared messages of the support with Maddie and her classmates.

Maddie said Barrington High School seniors vented their frustrations following the news that school officials were considering a virtual graduation ceremony, but most students were not sure what they could do to alter that plan.

Maddie decided to start the online petition and some of her classmates, including Kelly Kaon, Lorelei Alverson and Izzy Dionne, joined with her.

"I wanted to do something about this," Maddie said, adding that she has also contacted BHS Principal Joe Hurley about the petition. "He said he would keep it in mind."

Lorelei Alverson said she completely understands that it is important for officials to prioritize safety during the current situation, but she is confident that people in Barrington can find a way to hold an actual graduation ceremony that prioritizes safety and still allows for students to share a memorable in-person experience. 

"We're flexible. We're very flexible," Lorelei said. "Students are looking for a social connection.

"We have a collection of very smart people in town. We can find a way."

Lorelei and other members of the graduating class said they feel like they have been robbed of their senior year experiences, and instead shouldered with fears of an uncertain future. She said teenagers are struggling with mental health issues more than ever — anxiety and depression have replaced what should be a happy and joyous time.

"Morale is really low," she said. "I think graduation is incredibly important. I think seniors have lost a lot of hope."

Lorelei said she sympathizes with Governor Gina Raimondo and the situation she is facing. But holding a virtual graduation is not the answer, she added. Lorelei said students need to be able to see their classmates one last time before heading off in different directions this fall. BHS seniors never had the chance to say good-bye to their teachers or roam the high school halls one last time, she said.

An in-person graduation ceremony would offer that sense of closure, she said.

"We want a connection that's not a wifi connection."

Drive-through alternative

Kelly Kaon is the student representative to the Barrington School Committee. Last week, Kelly, who also sits on the Rhode Island Department of Education Student Advisory Council, shared the petition with members of the school committee during an online meeting.

She also spoke about a possible alternative to an online graduation. Kelly called it a drive-through graduation ceremony, where students and their families would be inside their cars, parked in the high school lot.

They could listen as students share speeches from a stage area at the front of the lot, and then when their names are called out, they could walk to the stage and pick up their diploma. Other members of the class and their families could beep their horns and cheer out their car windows.

It might not be a typical graduation, she said, but it would be something they could attend and would remember forever.

"I think the school committee was very receptive," Kelly said.

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