By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Although no graduations are being held at the Unadilla Drive-In, Cooperstown Central borrowed the idea, and families will watch the 2020 Commencement from parked cars at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, June 28.
“It will be a full ceremony, with all the students suited up on the field above,”
said Superintendent Bill Crankshaw.
And when families hear their student’s name over the loudspeaker, they’ll be invited up to present the diploma. “It’s a nice way for families to be involved with their student,” he said.
And that evening at 5 p.m., Project Graduation will host a Parade of Seniors up Main Street, accompanied by the Cooperstown Volunteer Fire Department, passing the photo banners of each of the 75 graduates on lampposts and in the window of the former CVS.
“Usually the lawn of the Fenimore Art Museum is filled with family members, neighbors and friends cheering on the graduates,” said Colleen Donnelly, Project Graduation co-chair. “Because that is not possible with COVID-19, the Parade of Seniors is a way for people to congratulate the Class of 2020 before they head off for college, the workforce and military service.”
Families are encouraged to gather under their student’s banner to facilitate social distancing.
Additionally, Crankshaw said that two private ceremonies were held for students, including Eric Kukenberger, whose mother, Carrie, died of cancer on Monday, June 8.
“She wanted to see her son graduate, and we were glad we were able to do that for the family,” he said.
A ceremony was also held for Mikeeli Hanson, who was due to leave June 25 for the Air Force Academy.
“All of our students are important,” said Crankshaw. “To the extent that we can individualize their experience, we will.”
In Oneonta, three ceremonies will be held – at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. – on the turf field, with students divided according to which guidance counselor they were assigned at the beginning of the year.
“We’ll hold three complete graduation ceremonies to comply with the executive order,” said Superintendent Thomas Brindley. “It’s almost alphabetical.”
Music will be pre-recorded, but speeches, including remarks from Principal Anne Wolstenholme and Valedictorian Alexander Bitterman, will be live.
To remain under state crowd guidelines, students may only have two guests, but those guests will get to participate in the ceremony.
“Having me up there with gloves and a mask, handing them their diploma in a very sterile process didn’t make sense,” he said. “So when we call the graduate’s name, they’ll walk up on stage and their guests will hand them their diploma.”
He continued, “Under these circumstances, parents and guardians have played such a pivotal role in helping them finish this school year. It only seemed right to include those folks who are so important to our students.”
And in addition to their caps and gowns, OHS students will also have the option of sporting matching masks, a gift from the Friends of OHS Class of 2020.
For the last seven weeks, the Friends have been delivering care packages to the high school seniors, including snacks, keychains and coupons to local restaurants. The last package, delivered Monday, June 22, had a teddy bear and an embroidered mask.
“They had their prom, their class trip, the senior brunch, all cancelled,” said school board member Amy Burnsworth. “We were looking for something nice to do for them.”