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Concord High finalizes plans for socially distant June 13 graduation ceremony at Memorial Field 

  • Scenes from the Concord High School graduation at Memorial Field in Concord on Saturday, June 16, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Published: 5/20/2020 1:59:06 PM

It will be a graduation trifecta for Concord High School seniors and their families outside at Memorial Field on June 13.

“It’s the best of a bad situation, to put it bluntly,” Concord Interim Superintendent Frank Bass said Wednesday. “It’s not a full-blown graduation like folks are used to, but given all the considerations we had to work through we feel this is the best of all possible worlds because we are allowing some parents to be there and we’re allowing all the students to be there and we’re really happy about that.”

There will be three ceremonies based on the three “Commons” Concord High uses for student attendance and other organizational purposes – Commons A, B and C. The first ceremony will start at approximately 9 a.m., the second around 1 p.m. and the third at about 5 p.m.

June 13 was the originally scheduled date for the ceremony before the coronavirus pandemic disrupted plans for large gatherings across the globe. The plans were approved by Concord Police and the state Departments of Education and of Health and Human Services.

Each student will be issued two or three tickets for their graduation ceremony.

“I can guarantee two tickets and we’re still looking at three. We have to measure the field again and see what kind of access we have. Memorial Field is only so big,” Bass said.

When students are dropped off at Memorial Field before their ceremony, they will be met by graduation marshals and led to a socially distanced gathering point. They will also be distanced more than six feet apart when they march on to the field, sit for the ceremony and leave.

“We were very conscience of staying within the bounds of the governor’s orders and safe distancing and all that, and what we did was create an eight-foot cubicle around every kid, metaphorically, so that no matter where you go in any direction, eight feet up or down or sideways, it doesn’t matter, you will not be in contact with anyone,” Bass said.

Marshals will also greet and organize the spectators upon arrival to avoid bottlenecks or congregating. The hope is that most, if not all, of the crowd will be able to sit on the field rather than the stands, which are more difficult to regulate in terms of crowd control.

The main event – picking up diplomas – will also be socially distant. Concord High principal Mike Reardon will call each graduate by name, as usual, but instead of taking the diploma from Reardon and shaking his hand, the diploma will be placed on a desk on the stage by someone wearing gloves and the student will take it off the desk and then “show it to the crowd and everyone goes haywire and then you go sit back in your seat and there has been no physical contact with anyone,” Bass said.

In a normal year, the Concord High band and chorus would perform at the ceremony, but this year a live performance will be replaced by recordings and, “a really nice sound system,” Bass said. There will also be a large video screen for congratulatory addresses from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, and there will be live speeches from CHS seniors.

If it rains, the ceremonies will be moved to Sunday, June 14.

Bass and district officials worked closely with Concord Chief of Police Bradley Osgood to formulate the plan to ensure there were no hiccups getting final approval. Working with state officials was also a smooth process, Bass said.

“Both the DOE and DHHS were very supportive of our plan. They said, ‘You guys have really thought this through with very detail.’ And, again, their main concern was to make sure that we didn’t have any breakdown in the social distancing regulations,” Bass said. “Chris Bond (the legal counsel) from the DOE was great and (DOE) Commissioner (Frank) Edelblut was great and he was very supportive. The nice thing to say here was that they both wanted us to be successful. We put our hearts and souls into this to really come up with a plan that was going to satisfy all the necessary parties, and we feel pretty good about that.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20)




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