Lawrence High School’s Class of 2020 will have a chance to experience a traditional graduation ceremony after all.

Superintendent Ross Kasun announced at the June 10 school board meeting that LHS is planning to hold an in-person graduation on Wednesday, July 29. This was made possible after Gov. Phil Murphy relaxed the stay-at-home guidelines in late May and increased the number of people who can gather outside.

“We’re so excited to be able to celebrate with all of you one last time,” said LHS principal David Adam in a video update to the community on June 12.

Adam said that the district is still in the process of formulating plans for the in-person ceremony and will announce more details, including time and place, on the high school’s website, at ltps.org/LHS. They are awaiting further guidance from the state.

Before the decision to hold the July event, the district created a multi-event plan, which is still in place, that includes a number of activities, including a virtual graduation ceremony.

“This is a huge stepping stone in their lives,” said Adam in an interview with the Gazette before the decision to hold the in-person ceremony was made. “We want to give them the very best sendoff that we can.”

The virtual commencement is a professionally produced video that will include student speakers, an address by Adam, student performances, individual names and photos of each senior, the presentation of the senior class by Kasun, and the conferral of diplomas by School Board president Kevin Van Hise.

“We will have the valedictorian, salutatorian and the class president speak,” Adam said, “as well as some other special pre-recorded messages.”

The graduation video will be posted on the LHS/LTPS websites and run on the LTPS cable channel this Friday, June 19 at 7 p.m.

A community-wide clap out will occur at the conclusion of the virtual graduation ceremony. Lawrence families and community members are asked to step out on their porches and front lawns to applaud the newest LHS graduates.

Adam said school officials are doing their best to make the end of this year a special one for the seniors, despite the unusual circumstances.

“The hard part is that we can’t do the things we typically want to,” Adam said. “We really would like to have a prom and graduation, but because of safety reasons, we just can’t.

“We also want to make sure everyone’s safe, and that’s what’s most important. The safety of the students and their families is being taken into consideration. The whole family could be at risk and we don’t want to put anybody in that position.”

Other initiatives for the graduates include:

LHS mascot tour of Lawrence

Graduation week activities start today when LHS mascot, Larry the Cardinal, drives through town past seniors homes. The grads should listen for honking and cheering on their street.

Senior spotlight

The Senior Spotlight on the Lawrence High School website is a slideshow featuring members of the Class of 2020.

LHS is hosting a slideshow on its website’s main page. Adam described the presentation as “an opportunity for students to send in a couple of pictures and facts about themselves and memories they want people to know about their high school experience.”

“It’s chance to shine a spotlight on them because they deserve to be honored and identified as the individuals for who they are as they are preparing to move on after high school,” Adam said.

“Proud of Our Senior” lawn signs

On May 1, each senior received a Class of 2020 lawn sign, paid for by the LHS Project Graduation. The signs were delivered to each senior’s home by Project Graduation parents and LHS staff.

“Our Project Graduation is an event that our parents have sponsored for years,” Adam said. “It’s a tradition here at Lawrence High School for all the students who are seniors to come back after graduation and spend the night together at the high school. It’s the last time for the class to be together, but its also so they can be safe.”

Because the event can’t be held this year, Project Graduation purchased the lawn signs, and then a group of parents, high school administrators and teachers spent the day delivering them to all 297 graduates.

Senior cap and gown photo op

On the last day of school, June 19, seniors will have the chance to take photos in their cap and gown on the high school’s football field. Graduating seniors will be allowed to bring two adults with them. 

“We’re going to set up a stage at the field and provide an opportunity for students to walk across the stage,” Adam said. “We’ll have a photographer there, and the family members who accompany them will be invited to take pictures as well from a safe distance to keep everybody safe.”

Adam said he will be present in his cap and gown as well in order to help the kids feel like they’re getting part of the graduation experience. “The thing we’re hearing from our students is that they’re missing those experiences, and we’re trying to do as much as we can provide them for them.”

The event will be held regardless of weather situation. If it rains, it will be held in the high school auditorium.

Adopt-a-senior

Members of the faculty staff at the high school and other district schools were asked to adopt a senior, said Adam.

The week before graduation they assembled celebratory tote bag sponsored the PTO and Project Graduation.  The bag had the student’s cap and gown and a beach towel that was purchased by the Project Graduation parents.

There were also be some other items in the bag that were personalized by the person who adopted the student. Adam said said they asked the adopter to include  a handwritten note or a congratulation for graduation card to put in the bag.

Senior awards presentation

The LHS community recognized members of the senior class on May 28 to celebrate their academic accomplishments, awards and scholarships in a video presentation (see above). The video has been posted on the LTPS Youtube channel at youtube.com/ltpsrewind.

Athletic awards presentation

The LHS Athletic Department on June 4 honored student-athletes in a video award presentation, highlighting record-breakers, championship teams and senior scholarship winners in a video presentation (see above). The video been posted on the LTPS Youtube channel at youtube.com/ltpsrewind.

Yearbooks/diplomas/senior awards

Yearbook production has been delayed and is expected to be delivered to LHS during the last week of June. Yearbooks will be distributed along with diplomas, diploma jackets, any senior awards which can be picked up after June 19 by appointment.