TOWNSEND – In a continuation of its previous meeting, the Board of Health on Wednesday afternoon again discussed whether to allow one of two alternative high school graduation plans that North Middlesex Regional School District Superintendent Brad Morgan has proposed to move forward.
But the board didn’t vote, instead opting to continue the meeting into a third session Friday morning.
At issue is the state’s stand on public gatherings while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place. Specifically, the 10-person limit and whether it applies to Morgan’s outdoor graduation plans.
That 10-person cap, if taken at face value, seems to rule out the graduation.
But a caveat regarding “confined” indoor spaces versus open, outdoor spaces might offer an end-around, member Linda Johansen said. In her view, it’s up to the town health board, not the state, to decide and if the vote were taken then and there, she’d say yes.
Another member, Christopher Nocella, said he’d vote no but could change his mind by Friday based on guidance from the state health board that they’ve been waiting for.
The town’s sanitation agent, Rick Metcalf, of the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health, said that when he brought the matter up in a conference call on Tuesday with state health officials, he was told that it would call for a legal read before they could weigh in.
They asked the board to hold off on its decision, he said. But he couldn’t say for how long.
Morgan has said he needs an answer by Friday to go ahead with either of the two graduation plans.
Option one divides the 210-member class into 25 groups, plus five family members for each grad.
In the no-contact plan Morgan described, graduating seniors walk across the stage, two at a time, to pick up diplomas, laid out on a pair of well-spaced podiums, with each group immediately departing to make way for the next.
The end result would be that no more than 50 people would be on the field at a time, Morgan explained, with precautions in place, per state requirements. For example, everybody would wear a mask and each family group would be socially distanced, six feet from others.
No audience would be seated and no on-site group activities are planned. Speeches would be virtual.
In the second scenario, option two, each graduating senior arrives with his or her family, all in separate vehicles, which would line up at an off-site location (to be determined) nearby at a designated time.
On cue, the vehicles drive over to the graduation site, set up on the school’s football field, one at a time, and seniors walk across the stage solo to pick up their diplomas, minus the traditional handshake. Podiums would be disinfected after each use.
Picture-taking would be a drive-up operation. Seniors and family groups get out of their vehicles, one group at a time, at an off-stage area set up for the purpose.
After the photographer – safely stationed six feet away – snaps the shot, the group gets back in the car and drives off and the next car pulls in.
Ceremonies would be spread out over a specific time frame and held over two days: June 5 and 6.
Chairman Christopher Genoter didn’t say where he stood, one way or the other but he’d prefer to hold off voting until Friday, pending guidance from the state. “ I definitely want to wait,” he said.