The high school commencement ceremony has been a rite of passage cherished by young people for generations.

This represents a new chapter of their lives following an extraordinary accomplishment. It shows they’ve completed the initial phases of their academic studies and are ready to move into adulthood. Some of them will prepare for college with others will embark on careers.

But these ceremonies have been put in limbo this year. The novel coronavirus pandemic has cast doubts over whether they should be held.

State mandates prohibit many types of mass gatherings. School districts are examining creative ways to honor high school graduates while adhering to social distancing rules.

State Assembly Minority Leader William A. Barclay, R-Pulaski, and his Republican colleagues have signed a letter asking to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to allow high school graduation ceremonies. As long as they observe the proper safety protocols, seniors should be able to enjoy this experience.

“The impact of COVID-19 on New York’s students has been especially jarring, as valuable classroom time disappeared, social routines were disrupted and students were forced to miss out on many benefits of student life. Let’s give them back this one, important event and try to fill some of the void left by this terrible pandemic,” Mr. Barclay said in a news release issued Thursday. “We believe with proper planning and execution these events could safely be hosted in the near future and provide some much-needed normalcy in these trying times.”

Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Burnt Hills, minority ranker on education, echoed Mr. Barclay’s views.

“This has been an extremely trying year for New York students. Now that many regions are seeing substantial drops in COVID-19 cases, it is time not just for reopening the economy, but for repairing the building blocks of our communities. I can think of no better place to do that than in our schools,” she said in the news release. “Graduating high school is a tremendous accomplishment, and the Class of 2020 and their families deserve to celebrate those accomplishments.”

The letter made this case for the Assembly Minority Conference. Signers of the document include state Assemblymen Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River; Robert J. Smullen, R-Meco; and Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown.

“We must consider that students have been isolated at home for almost three months due to the pandemic. Graduation ceremonies to celebrate educational accomplishments are an important rite of passage and represent a lifetime milestone. But they could also be an excellent way to finally transition our state out of this lockdown. For many young people who do not plan to attend college, this will be the only opportunity to participate in a graduation ceremony,” it read. “Allowing graduation ceremonies to proceed would offer a sense of closure for students who so abruptly left school and had their educational experiences turned upside down. This is often the last time these young people will see each other as they move onto different paths in life. Few occasions are as truly memorable, and a graduation ceremony would provide students the chance to say their goodbyes.”

To protect individuals vulnerable to COVID-19, family members of graduates may watch the ceremonies livestreamed over the internet while at home. But young people who don’t have compromising health conditions should enjoy walking across a stage to receive their diplomas. As long as high schools use venues large enough to keep everyone separated by a safe distance, let’s allow them to commence with commencements.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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(10) comments


The letter to Cuomo, penned and signed by NY Republicans, is pure and simple political posturing.

Pandemic related mandates in NYS, including those associated with graduations, are based on data interpreted by infectious disease and public health experts. Instead of assuring constituents that the mandates are substantive and intelligent, Republican leaders use them for political expedience. The mandates become opportunities for fostering their visibility, rearing up against Cuomo and paying lip service to supporters. Low. Indeed, rock bottom during a pandemic.

It's time for Ben Muir to do a story on graduates who have learned and grown from the pandemic. What does NY Tough, Smart, United, Disciplined and Loving mean to them? How have they navigated and survived pandemic related difficulties? How has the crisis moved them to become better human beings?

Let's hear from graduates who exemplify the strength of character and intelligence that are shamefully absent in the Republican leaders.


Holmes..."Odd isn’t it that the worst outbreaks are where democrats are in charge.".... Hmmm.....Odd isn't it that the two biggest recessions we've had since the great depression was when the GOP was in charge... Bush and Trump... and Hoover, another GOP, was POTUS during the great depression... Convenient memory Holmes...


Could someone post MINOR ASSembly LEADer Barclay's medical degree on line?

I'm not sure he's legally qualified to practice medicine in New York State. I'm also not sure I want to bet MY life on his glib assurances. Will he be handing diplomas to every graduate and shaking the hands of every attendee? I'm sure he means well, but IMNSHO he ought to stick to shilling for the GOP and not playing doctor. With the New York State COVID-19 death toll over 24,000, this isn't the time to play foolish political games with lives.

Of course, if he is willing to buy the necessary PPE out of his own pocket, personally sanitize the graduation site, insure all of NYS and everyone passing through - what could go wrong?

Respectfully suggested...


As a former college instructor, I can tell you that this editorial reeks of "helicopter parenting," also called "lawnmower parenting"-- when "hovering" parents, and now local Republican politicians and the WDT editorial board, go to whatever lengths to "mow down" anything, in this case pandemic-related graduation mandates, that might cause children to experience disappointment, discomfort or conflict. In intervening and rescuing children, they send the message that the problem is too much for them to bear, handle or tolerate, increasing their distress, depression and anxiety (already at pandemic levels well before COVID). In removing the conflict, they remove every opportunity for children to learn resilience, fortitude, coping skills, problem-solving, strength of character, perseverance, etc. The resulting children are the #1 problem in high education today-- children who have neither the skills nor character to cope with and solve their own struggles, challenges and problems.


Give me a break, yup it’s the “local Republican politicians” you forgot to blame Trump and the NRA. Everything is political to you people...

And what exactly is a ‘college instructor’ ?


Holmes, read the editorial. I or "you people" didn't make the issue political. Republican politicians made it political when they penned and signed the letter to Cuomo, requesting permission for graduations to proceed: Republicans Barclay, Walsh, Blankenbush, Smullen, Walczyk, etc.

A 'college instructor' is a non-tenured track professor who teaches courses at an institution of higher learning . For example, someone like myself who taught 10 philosophy courses per year, for 17 years, at a local institution of higher learning.


Philosophy, well that explains everything and 17 years and no tenure?


Holmes, take a break from your normal right wing blather, reread the article and zeitgeist's comments again.... you're dragging Trump and the NRA into the conversation... That said, if they're allowing the peaceful protests, a graduation ceremony under the conditions noted, appear to be appropriate... if a store clerk can take and return my credit card and receipt, someone can hand out diplomas... Right now under Cuomo's leadership, we may beat this thing, in spite of some .... Be safe, wear your mask...


“Cuomo’s leadership” tell that to the 5800 elderly who died in nursing homes under Cuomo’s leadership. Odd isn’t it that the worst outbreaks are where democrats are in charge.

But that’s considered “leadership”.....


P.S. On another note... Where is Jerry Moore's third column in his series of columns on God? Thank you.

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