Update: Graduation parade with stage walk planned for Staples graduates

WESTPORT — With restrictions on outside gatherings loosened, school officials have announced the incorporation of an “in-person” graduation experience for Staples High School’s Class of 2020.

“In order to be granted approval to do this, we have worked closely with and secured an agreement with both the Westport Police Department and the Weston-Westport Health District,” Staples principal Stafford Thomas said in an email on Tuesday. “Within the next week, we will be sending out graduation day guidelines which we developed in conjunction with the two agencies.”

A graduation car parade, which will consist of nine small ones, will take place on June 11 at 10 a.m. Waves of 50 cars will gather at Long Lots Elementary School in three batches at 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.

“Every graduate will arrive in one car with family members,” Thomas said. “Graduates will not drive their own vehicles as they will be on the passenger side in order to best enjoy the experiences of the day.”

Graduates should arrive at Long Lots by Post Road and Maple Avenue North, and will not be permitted to enter from Long Lots Road down Hyde Lane. The parade route will go from Long Lots to Staples.

“District and security personnel, wearing masks, will direct traffic and assist in the flow of the procession,” Thomas said.

Police will escort the cars along from Hyde Lane to Longs Lots Road, then over to and up North Avenue to Staples. Students will be given a chance to get out of their cars in front of Staples where a stage will be set up for them, Thomas said.

“Graduates will walk across a stage donning their caps and gowns as their name is announced with their diplomas in hand,” he said. “Parents are able to look on up close from the safety of their vehicles.”

A professional photographer will also be in place to capture the moment for each graduate, he said.

“We understand that nothing we do will be able to replicate a traditional graduation ceremony,” Thomas said. “It is a year where we are balancing numerous safety protocols, moving targets from the state with respect to outdoor gathering sizes, as well as the expectations of our high school traditions linked to a specific culminating event for seniors.

“That being said, by incorporating the wishes and expectations we have heard from our students and families over the past couple of months, it is our SHS Graduation Committee’s feeling that this experience will provide a safe and exciting way to honor the class of 2020,” he continued. “We are extremely excited to blow this day out and end the year for our special seniors in a truly memorable way.”

Staples radio station will broadcast live beginning at 9 a.m. and throughout the parade. A live camera will also be stationed at the front of the school and the parade will be streamed to Channel 78.

June 12 is tentatively scheduled as a rain date for the car parade.

A virtual graduation for Staples students is also scheduled for June 16 — the original graduation date. The virtual ceremony will have a master of ceremony to guide viewers through all of the segments included in the traditional graduation program.

The ceremony will be streamed and a link will be sent to seniors so that they can access the video to view at any time.