Lincoln trying to zero in on graduation plans

Lincoln trying to zero in on graduation plans

LINCOLN – After more than a month of back-and-forth between local and state leaders, Lincoln has finalized alternative graduation plans to honor this year’s graduating seniors.

Though graduates and their families will not pack into a crowded auditorium like classes before them, seniors will still be given the chance to walk the stage by appointment, individually, possibly wearing a mask, and after being screened for coronavirus, to receive their diploma.

Referencing guidance from the state, Supt. Larry Filippelli said, “the goalposts kept moving for us.” He said plans remain in flux.

Filippelli said Gov. Gina Raimondo used a social distance ceremony at McCoy Stadium as a specific example for what would not be allowed this year, “yet last Friday news dropped that Pawtucket will use it as their venue.”

School Committee Chairman Joseph Goho said the state suggested a ceremony at the local drive-in, but that the Rustic Drive-In in North Smithfield never returned calls from the district.

The Community College of Rhode Island, where graduation is usually held, said it would not open for a ceremony on campus, even drive-in style with a rented screen.

At first, Filippelli said they were working with “extreme guidelines” but were able to earn a bit of leeway from the state on what will be allowed for graduation this year.

Filippelli said original plans to have students come to Lincoln High School by advisory, with some parental participation, was “completely shut down.”

“I’m sure the governor’s office is feeling political and parental pressures, because this is a big deal, and we’re trying to do everything to make this as special and memorable for the kids as we can, while protecting the health of all participant during the event,” he said.

Filippelli said people would be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 before being allowed inside the high school.

Right now, two family members will be allowed to accompany the graduate inside, where the senior will cross the stage to receive their diploma and take photos.

“If the governor’s office moves the goalposts again, maybe that’s an opportunity for us to make changes and allow more people,” Filippelli said.

He told The Breeze last week that he had been pushing Raimondo’s office to allow some type of ceremony “where the kid can be in a cap and gown and cross a stage and feel a little bit like they’re a senior.”

“There are some kids who will go to college and grad school, and they’ll get another bite at the apple when it comes to crossing the stage. I have to think about them, but also the kids that want to go on a career path. This might be the only time they cross the stage,” he said.

Filippelli said he hopes the alternative ceremony will give seniors “something that got taken away from them. This is the milestone event in their teenage years.”