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NL school board approves graduation ceremony July 24

Members of the Northern Lehigh High School Class of 2020, it’s official: Your big day will arrive on July 24.

On a unanimous measure, the school board on Monday agreed to set that day as the graduation date for the 2019-20 school year, to be held either virtually or in person based on guidance from the governor’s office and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Superintendent Matthew J. Link said that while the plan is to hold an in-person ceremony, the district has also planned for a virtual graduation.

“If we are able to do so safely, it may be in person in the stadium,” Link said. “We would have to put some limitations on the number of attendees and what the physical arrangement of the stadium looks like, but we have not yet ruled that option out.”

The district is also planning a virtual online graduation.

“Either way it looks like we’re going to do a parade of seniors to celebrate our seniors down Main Street from Slatington out through Walnutport and back up here to the main campus on Bulldog Lane for the distribution of diplomas,” Link said.

“If we are able to do an in-person graduation, we would still like to be able to have a parade to celebrate our seniors; they certainly deserve it.”

Link said Frank Gnas, school police officer and school safety and security coordinator, has been working diligently with co-director of business affairs/payroll & benefits Rhonda Frantz to get necessary insurance for the parade. They have contacted Walnutport, Slatington and Washington township offices to get parade permits. The entire application will be going to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for approval on Wednesday, Link said.

“So we’re making great strides in all those areas there,” he said.

High school Principal Robert Vlasaty said last month the goal is to try to have as traditional of a graduation ceremony as possible at Bulldog Stadium in Slatington.

Vlasaty said even if they go green, based on what green looks like, if the stipulations are adjusted, they would plan on still practicing social distancing, and would be adjusting that and moving the stage to the south end zone underneath the scoreboard and utilizing both the home and away stands.

However, Vlasaty added that the district would probably still have to limit the seniors to nuclear family tickets to four or five at most.

Vlasaty said the district surveyed the students, staff and community (including the seniors’ parents) and asked what they would like to see. He said over 75 percent of all three groups said they wanted a traditional service and they wanted to have it in July.

The planned parade route begins in Slatington, goes through Walnutport, then loops back around and come up Center Street by Northern Lehigh Middle School, go left onto Snyder Avenue and do the distribution right in front of Northern Lehigh High School, where the district’s photographer would take photos of all the graduates.

Vlasaty said that while they would be going through the parade, they would be streaming a virtual graduation ceremony via Zoom.

He said the district is collecting slides that students are sending with their pictures and what their graduation plans are, while parents are sending words of well wishes.

In addition, Vlasaty said they are also going to be collecting videotaped speeches for all its speakers.

Vlasaty said 106 students are expected to graduate.

In the event there would need to be last-minute changes, he said yet another plan would be an all-virtual graduation and mail home the diplomas.

Blue Ridge TV13 will broadcast the graduation ceremony live.