Seniors at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) that would normally be excitedly planning graduation at the Tabernacle and signing up for classes at their prospective colleges and universities are now stuck in a holding pattern.
With Gov. Charlie Baker making the unprecedented decision to keep schools closed for the rest of the year, seniors at MVRHS and across the state are looking toward an unpredictable future.
“We really don’t know what’s going to happen, specifically for graduating seniors,” said senior Jaden Edelman, who is planning to attend Harvard University.
He said it’s too soon to make any solid decisions because of the rapidly evolving nature of the situation. But he said the school is considering a number of different options for graduation that are still subject to change.
“We are looking at various possibilities, and are going to try to keep everything as traditional as possible. But we are willing to make changes, as long as we can do some sort of wrap up with the entire class together,” Edelman said.
Another senior, class president Alex Rego, said the only unwavering theme as of now is that “nothing is inflexible.”
“We are exploring many different alternatives. Obviously we had lots of plans and events that we were looking forward to, but nothing is cut-and-dried, it just can’t be,” she said.
A few concepts Rego said class officers and seniors are entertaining for graduation are a drive-by parade idea, and a drive-up graduation, where individual students could receive their diplomas one at a time. A virtual graduation concept was also pitched, although students agree that would not be preferable.
“We are thinking of very unique ways to honor the senior class. I do think that our class is something really special. What we have endured together has brought us together,” Rego said. “It’s heartwarming to see the Island community at large, whether it’s faculty, students, or parents, really stepping forward to offer ideas for alternative graduations and trying to make it all meaningful despite these tough times.”
Rego is committed to Dartmouth College, and she said that while many colleges are still pushing for in-person classes for the first semester, some are starting to face the grim reality that it might not be feasible.
“Some schools are considering welcoming incoming freshmen in the winter, and are making it more accessible to have a deferral option. They’re also rewriting financial aid packages to meet the constantly changing needs of students,” Rego said.
Edelman said if schools do welcome newly matriculated students in the fall, some of them are still planning on enforcing social distancing. “So it would be like you are living on-campus but you can’t go around to make new friends or do a lot of the things you would normally do as a freshman,” he said.
Senior Jack Holmes said he was prepared to lose the rest of this school year, but the possibility of missing out on an in-person graduation is a lot more for students to bear.
“Those are the types of experiences that students are a lot less willing to lose. This situation is starting to eat away a lot more at our lives,” Holmes said. “It’s like we are in this weird, anxious limbo where we don’t know how far this is going to stretch. Everyone is trying to plan for their future, while having very little certainty of what is going to happen.”
Wellness coordinator for MVRHS, Amy Lilavois, said every stakeholder in the MVRHS community is going to have a say on what might happen with graduation and other senior events.
“We are taking input from all ends of the community. We want the Island’s help in trying to figure out which direction to go in,” Lilavois said.
School adjustment counselor Matt Malowski said that, if restrictions are lifted, MVRHS is hoping to hold a graduation ceremony sometime during the summer, before the first senior takes off for college.
“It’s important for the community to help us generate ideas and support us in having a graduation,” Malowski said.
Senior Spencer Pogue said he is intent on having a graduation ceremony where the entire senior class is represented, whether that comes in its traditional form, or something a bit different than in years past.
“You can’t recreate graduation in its truest form, and you can’t recreate all the special moments of senior year, but we are just hoping to salvage any remnants we can of our last semester at MVRHS,” Pogue said.