CWN Report: Inside the Falmouth High Graduation Cancellation Decision

FALMOUTH – ’Twas the night before graduation, and all through the town, Falmouth seniors were ready with caps & gowns. Yet the night before 200 students were set to celebrate a socially distanced graduation, they received notice that may not be possible.

The memo, sent just after 5:30 P.M. on Friday evening from the desk of FHS Principal Mary Whalen Gans, informed recipients of an emergency school committee meeting regarding the impending ceremony.

One local parent, Laura Louise, quickly hopped on to the Zoom meeting link provided in the email where it became evident the conversation was regarding students’ potential exposure to coronavirus.

“What I saw on the school committee meeting was that a person A tested positive and then person B-who is related and lives with person A-had interaction with a lot of seniors,” she explains.

While the news was disheartening, Louise says she supports the decision. “I was disappointed for sure, but as far as I was concerned, they made the best choice.” While the email may have been last minute, Louise says she appreciated the invitation to the Zoom meeting.

“It was very transparent. School committee members were working hard to get the facts for themselves at that time, bringing in the health agent. Not only do they have safety of students and families to worry about their staff as well.”

Yet some residents have expressed concern over the reasoning behind the cancellation, wondering how the virus may have transferred to members of the Class of 2020. The concerns come just one week after a large gathering in Chatham exposed approximately 60 people to the virus, largely impacting restaurant industry workers.

“There was a party in Chatham, and that’s where they believe the girl (person A) got COVID,” explains recent graduate Madison Lafleur. Not long after the announcement was made, a couple of local Falmouth restaurants announced they would temporarily close until further notice after workers tested positive.

The final decision not to hold the ceremony was sent to students and families at 8PM on Friday following a discussion and vote by the school committee. For Louise’s family, while the decision was sudden it was not one that she feels left a stain on her daughter’s high school experience.

“For her, it all ended in March when she couldn’t’t get back to school. The disappointment is completely valid, and I remember thinking in March about everything my daughter is losing, and I tried to talk to my daughter about it and she said ‘But Mom, look at what everybody else is losing too’.”

The graduation, which had been planned to take place on Saturday morning adhering to physical distancing guidelines, had been previously limited to 2 guests per person putting the ceremony at approximately 600 attendees.

Students say they have had their caps and gowns for over a month and had been informed a month ago to be told to expect a graduation ceremony.  “Everyone would have had to wear a mask, we would have been on wooden boards with us and our two guests, six feet apart from other family units,” explains LaFleur, who says she understands the committee’s decision and fondly recalled her favorite memories at the high school.

“I was part of the theatre program and have a lot of memories coming in to The Little Mermaid rehearsals and bringing munchkins to my fellow cast members. I was also part of the choir, some of my best memories were in the choir room with my best friend Hannah.”

The sentiment of keeping positive has been a common trend among parents and students, including Louise who says her family prepared for this exact scenario. “I was not surprised. We’re in a pandemic. Our lives have completely changed.” Her family, like many others, ensured the graduation experience was still celebrated safely at home.

“My daughter watched the ceremony from our couch, the dogs were there, it was air conditioned, and they had all the speeches. I thought the speeches were excellent, and when they said her name, we all cheered, and that was it!”

By, Emmalyn Reid, Cape Wide News

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