The athletic field alongside Petrides High School has been empty for months, ever since the coronavirus forced all students to learn remotely from home. But parents say they've got the perfect use for the field now: a graduation ceremony for the 114 Petrides seniors set to receive diplomas at the end of the month.
They thought the idea was a no-brainer. But then school administrators weighed in.
Kim Craig's son is set to graduate.
"We're getting, the chancellor said no, the superintendent said no," she said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that in-person graduation ceremonies involving as many as 150 people will be allowed starting June 26, now that coronavirus cases and deaths are declining across the state.
With 114 students and about 20 staff members, a ceremony at Petrides could be held under the new criteria.
Parents say they've offered to sit in their cars in a nearby lot and listen to the ceremony on speakers, or even watch it virtually after it's done.
But they say administrators rejected the proposal in favor of making a video of students in their caps and gowns. Parents say their children oppose that idea..
Patti Ventrell's daughter is the valedictorian of the class.
"The football field is big enough to be 6 feet of distance apart," she said. "If the children need to wear masks, they’ll wear masks."
Many schools across the city have already held virtual or drive-by or ceremonies, alternatives these parents say were never offered to them.
Petrides is the only public school on Staten Island that runs from kindergarten through 12th grade. Many in the graduating class have been together for 13 years.
Parents say allowing an outdoor ceremony would help ease some of the loss felt by students who have been apart from their classmates since March.
"What people are failing to realize is the emotional and psychological impact this whole thing has had on these kids," said parent Carrie Sereno. "If we can get them, if we can give them this one, this one thing, it would make so much of a difference for them."
Despite the state's new graduation guidelines, the city Department of Education says it consulted with the Health Department and concluded that in-person graduations are still not safe. The DOE said it sent guidance to principals about drive-through ceremonies and says Petrides is welcome to apply to have one.