Earlier this month, New York State’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, authorized that socially distanced graduation ceremonies of up to 150 people would be allowed beginning on June 26.
In a press statement, the governor backed his decision, stating, “Based on today’s numbers we can continue to advance our reopening, and we will now allow outdoor graduations of up to 150 beginning June 26. New Yorkers have worked together to bend this curve quickly, and if we continue on this trajectory, remain responsible and follow all social distancing protocols, we can keep accelerating our reopening strategy.”
In Tioga County, the number of total cases since the pandemic began is holding steady at 148 as of Friday morning. But still, school officials are trying to work with the limited attendance number set by the governor. Owego Free Academy has approximately 170 graduating, so working with this number is proving to be a challenge.
And even if mass gatherings are given the go ahead during Phase 4 of the governor’s reopening plan, it will most likely come with capacity restrictions.
We recently reached out to Luke McEvoy, spokesperson and Public Relations Representative for the Owego-Apalachin District, to find out how these numbers might affect any planned ceremonies.
In an email on Thursday, McEvoy stated, “The 150 number is the total attendance at one time, which is what is causing issues and frustration across the state.”
He noted that other school districts, like those in Broome County, are pushing the governor to come back with a capacity percentage or a percentage based on overall space. He noted that some of the schools in Broome County are even looking at the Rumble Ponies stadium.
“It only works if you have everyone there,” added McEvoy, noting that 150 doesn’t work, but a percentage of capacity would.
In the meantime, the school district has done a bit of celebrating on its own, with social distancing applied.
On Friday, June 5, the school held a senior cap and gown celebration that allowed students to drive through the bus loop at the Owego school during a two hour window to receive their cap and gown, a senior shirt, a gift from the senior advisors, a senior yearbook if ordered, athletic gifts and awards, and even a book from the Family Reading Partnership and a Swag Bag from CASA Trinity.
The event also offered an OA backdrop for senior pictures.
As for graduation, the school is holding on to Saturday, June 27 as the ceremony date, with plans hinging on the state’s decision.
In the meantime, you can visit https://youtu.be/bHauf4h9Tvg to view a video from the recent cap and gown ceremony in Owego. Senior Spotlights also continue on social media, and a photo of each Class of 2020 graduate hangs along the soccer fence on the school’s grounds on Sheldon Guile Boulevard.
For other schools in Tioga County, like Candor, a graduation ceremony has tentatively been set for June 25. We will be reaching out to the schools this week to get further details on what things might look like this year for their graduating seniors. At that point, the directive coming out of Albany should be solidified.
Click on the thumbnails to view more photos.