Massena making plans for prom, graduation

Massena Central High School officials are planning to hold graduation for the Class of 2021 on June 25 and 26 under the lights on the school’s artificial turf. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — Plans are in the works for a prom and graduation ceremonies at Massena Central High School, but Principal Alan Oliver says they won’t be the typical events.

In a video message, Mr. Oliver updated parents on the ongoing plans to stage the prom and graduation ceremonies, as well as allow spectators at some spring sporting events.

The prom for juniors and seniors is tentatively scheduled for the evening of June 12. Attendees will need to wear masks and maintain 3 feet of social distancing.

“We’re going to do something. The (Department of Health) guidance really doesn’t allow us to do a dance. If you’ve ever been to one of our proms, there’s not 3 feet of social distancing, so the idea of having a traditional dance is probably not going to happen for us,” he said. “Our junior class and the kids in the junior class are working very hard right now to design an event, and the district is supporting them in any way we can. The event is very much a plan in progress.”

Mr. Oliver said that, while it won’t be a traditional prom, it will be an opportunity for students to get together for some fun.

“We’re looking at doing an outdoor event likely on one of the fields around the school under an enormous tent we’re looking to rent,” he said.

He said they had to consider size limitations while planning the event, noting they typically have more than 300 students attend, “which makes it a very big event.”

“We are good with size because you can have an outdoor gathering of up to 500 as long as there’s testing involved, and we’ll get into all of that as it gets closer. So, I think size-wise we’re OK here,” Mr. Oliver said.

He also shared an update on graduation. Like last year, ceremonies will be split into two nights. Unlike last year, though, they’re tentatively scheduled for June 25 and 26. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, ceremonies for the Class of 2020 had not been held until July.

“Graduation 2021 is another place where size gets us. We’re going to graduate probably about 185-ish students this year. If I let all of those students bring two guests, that’s another 370 guests. There’s about 20 school staff that end up working the event. So you’re talking about 575-ish people, probably larger than that. The cap for an outside event even with testing, vaccines and everything is still 500 people. So when you do the simple math, we’re going to be a district that is likely not going to be able to bring everybody together to one ceremony,” Mr. Oliver said.

But, he said, there was potentially good news.

“The good news about splitting it is there is some chance that we’ll be able to let each student have more than two people at the event. We’re working on that,” he said.

Mr. Oliver said the two-night event wasn’t an ideal choice.

“I’ve talked to the kids a lot about this. One thing they really want is to have everybody together. The guidance simply isn’t going to allow us to do this. What we’re looking at right now is probably a two-night event... to be held on the nights of June 25 and 26,” he said.

The event is planned to be under the lights on the district’s turf field.

“We do want to do this event on site, so I think the Class of 2021 will be the first class in a long line of classes that will be graduating on the turf under the lights right here at Massena High School. The idea would be to use the beautiful facility and turf we have to host our graduation from now until forever I would think because it would be a beautiful spot to graduate from,” Mr. Oliver said.

In case of rain, the ceremony would be moved into the high school gymnasium.

“We don’t intend on getting into a spot like last year where graduation gets punted down the road and we’re graduating later on in the summer. I am committed to running graduation on the weekend of the 25th and 26th so it can be when it’s supposed to be,” Mr. Oliver said.

He also provided an update on spring athletics.

“The district is definitely looking to allow spectators in for spring sporting events. It’s likely to be a limited capacity situation like it was in the fall,” he said.

Mr. Oliver said athletic directors were discussing their plans.

“The problem that they’re running into is some of the spring sports are high-risk sports, so the rules are a little bit more nuanced there that they have to look at,” he said. “We’re definitely looking at spring sports and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure there’s at least some spectators at spring events.”

The spring sports season is scheduled to start on Monday.

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