NEW YORK - A cap and gown. Pomp and circumstance. And this year, car caravans and livestreams: it's graduation season amid a health crisis.
"For seven straight days, myself and the staff are leading a caravan throughout the Bronx hand delivering each senior their high school diploma," said Colin Healy, Principal New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Industries.
With coronavirus still a threat, the state is limiting in-person graduations to no more than 150 people, making it impossible for most city high schools to hold traditional ceremonies. Drive-thru graduations are also problematic - many families and students don't have cars. For the the High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries, with 96 graduating seniors, putting staff into cars for a caravan made sense.
"We get to see the pride they have for themselves, but we also get to see the families, how proud they are and we also get to see the communities, so many cars drive by and show their support, we've had people from the windows of their apartment buildings cheering as well," Healy said.
The High School of Art and Design draws students from all five boroughs, making a caravan impractical.
"We have a graduating class alone of 350 students so that kind of steals the opportunity to be together physically," said Maximillian Re-Sugiura, Principal at High School of Art and Design.
So students will have a virtual graduation.
Principal Maximillian Re-Sugiura says the ceremony will recognize that many of them are grappling with issues beyond finishing high school.
"One of the things we really want to focus on is addressing student voice at the center of our graduation, specifically in the context of the current climate both around racial injustice and police brutality, but also around public health," Re-Sugiura said.
The staff is producing an online event that will include self-filmed segments sent in by students, to be aired after their names are read during the conferring of diplomas. Student artwork will also be displayed. the principal sees a silver lining in moving events like these online.
"The world is in a state of flux and we can’t predict the future, but this is also a unique opportunity unlike many other ceremonies where families haven’t been available to come share in the success, to have it shared with everybody simultaneously," Re-Sugiura said.