Grads to receive diploma in person, online event to follow for community

📸 Southbridge High School Principal Patrick Danby announced graduation plans in a video posted on the Southbridge Public Schools Facebook page on Thursday morning.

SOUTHBRIDGE — Plans for a “peaceful parade/protest” have appeared on social media, reportedly in opposition to local high school graduation plans.

On Thursday morning, Southbridge Public Schools announced the district’s plans for handling Southbridge High School’s graduation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Within hours, talk of a protest emerged.

Southbridge High School has invited graduating seniors and their families to come to the high school on Torrey Road on Wednesday, June 10 to receive their cap and gown, diploma, and the opportunity to take part in traditional graduation activities, such as the flipping of the graduation cap’s tassel and professional photographs. School officials announced video would be taken and used as part of a virtual commencement ceremony on June 19. The virtual graduation would be viewable on local cable access television, YouTube, and Facebook.

In a video posted on the Southbridge Public Schools Facebook page, high school principal Patrick Danby said coronavirus precautions will prevent the traditional graduation ceremony format. The video, addressed to graduating seniors, noted a desire to “celebrate your accomplishments, your graduation, and moving on to the next stage of your life.”

A series of activities will be taken on school grounds, filmed and spliced together as part of the virtual graduation.

“In order to have a virtual graduation, there has to be a part that is in person because we need you to come in, get in your cap and gown, receive your diploma, walk across the stage, and everything else that graduates do for a traditional ceremony,” Danby said.

He later added: “We are so very much looking forward to celebrating your accomplishment, and seeing you on June 10 so that you can walk across the stage and get your diploma, and to celebrate you in the online ceremony June 19.”

Students have been encouraged to decorate the top of their graduation caps and send photographs of the mortar board so it can be included in the virtual ceremony, according to high school assistant principal Amanda Miser.

Those plans are reportedly not adequate for some students. The protest announcement reads, in part: “We deserve a ceremony graduation. All our hard work for so many years to come and find out we are going to have a online graduation isn’t what we deserve. Covid-19 took many things/people from us but it will NOT take away our graduation.”

The announcement encouraged students to make signs and, while wearing facemasks, meet at the former Southbridge High School on Cole Avenue for a “peaceful parade/protest” that would travel to the current high school on Torrey Road on Friday morning.

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