August graduation canceled amid health concerns


Mitch Fink

In place of Commencement, which was originally scheduled for June, the school organized a drive-in graduation ceremony.

Sophia Van Beek, Copy Editor

The Class of 2020 was informed on July 14 that their August graduation had been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, making them the first class to not walk graduation terrace in celebration of their commencement.

 The announcement came after weeks of carefully weighing the numerous safety and logistical concerns. According to 2020 Class Dean Jeff Carnevale, the administration was particularly concerned following the emergence of a COVID-19 cluster at a drive-in ceremony for Horace Greeley High School graduates in Chappaqua, N.Y. 

After attending the Chappaqua graduation, one student who had recently traveled to Florida tested positive for coronavirus. Florida has recently emerged as a coronavirus hotspot, with a positive test rate of 19.1 percent, meaning nearly a fifth of tests came back positive, according to Covid Act Now. The World Health Organization recommends a positive test rate of less than 10 percent. 

At least 19 attendees subsequently tested positive, according to an announcement made by County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler. Everyone who had attended the graduation, or any parties and celebrations following the drive-in ceremony was instructed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to quarantine for 14 days. 

Carnevale said, “If something like that were to happen and we had to quarantine everyone who participated, that would have a significant impact on people going off to college.”

For graduates that are headed off to college, their move-in days have been spread out over up to a few weeks in order to minimize contact and maintain social distancing. 

“Another factor was the number of students who had college plans shift and change, which is something that has evolved over the past month, with many move-in dates moving up; so a number of students wouldn’t be able to attend,” Carnevale said.

On July 14, Cuomo added four more states – Minnesota, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Ohio – to the list of 22 on New York’s travel advisory. The advisory requires individuals traveling from states with an infection rate of above 10 percent to quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in New York. Some students from out-of-state may have been physically unable to attend the graduation because of mandatory quarantine, which would have taken away from the collective celebration.

“It was a decision we put off making as long as possible,” Carnevale said, adding, “I’m as equally disappointed as I’m sure many students are. We were trying to act with everyone’s health in mind.”

Class of 2020 Co-President Lawrence Azzaritti attended Masters for four years, and like many of his peers, was looking forward to the August graduation. 

“I do understand why they had to cancel, but it is still frustrating and disappointing,” he said.

Azzaritti felt it would feel more like an official end to his high school experience than the less formal June drive-in graduation.

“It was really fun, I loved it, and I want to thank all of the teachers and everyone who made it possible,” Azzaritti added. “Was it commemorative? Yes. An official end? No.”

Carnevale agreed, commenting “It was definitely a very light, exciting, celebratory atmosphere, while it didn’t have the pomp and circumstance of the traditional graduation. It certainly was a recognition and celebration of the class.”

He feels that the parade, in addition to the hand-delivered mugs and signs, helped the class celebrate themselves.

Alex Feiner, who also graduated after attending Masters for four years, is among many seniors who were abroad or unable to attend the drive-in graduation. Like many members of the class of 2020, he was disappointed that the August graduation was cancelled, saying “It would have been a nice way to close off the year.” 

Feiner and his family stayed in Arizona for the online portion of the school year, and he only returned to New York in June, a few days after the drive-in celebration. Upon returning to New York, Feiner quarantined for a week and a half before receiving a negative COVID test result. 

Although he wasn’t able to celebrate with his entire grade, Feiner said “It was nice to see some people [upon returning to New York]”.

There are plans to have a possible reunion when the pandemic has come to an end, according to Carnevale, although nothing is concrete yet. A reunion would be an opportunity for students who were unable to attend the drive-in, or disappointed about the August graduation’s cancellation, to commemorate their highschool experiences in-person. When the senior class voted about how to celebrate commencement, one of the options was to gather in the spring of 2021, which Azzariti is hopeful will still happen.