The Class of 2020 Graduates Despite Senior Year Marred by COVID-19

Michael Heller/Courtesy of Sag Harbor School District
Jeff Nichols, the Sag Harbor School District superintendent who had served as the school principle, led the graduates.
Southampton High School seniors received their diplomas during a drive-through ceremony on June 26.

Members of the Class of 2020 from school districts throughout the East End received their diplomas in recent days, officially ending a school year already been cut short due to COVID-19.

Commencement ceremonies were handled differently across school districts due to social gathering guidelines in place. Governor Andrew Cuomo decided earlier this month to allow ceremonies, starting June 26, but said they must be held outdoors with proper social distancing, and with only up to 150 people in attendance.

At the Westhampton Beach High School, diplomas were handed out in five separate ceremonies on the school’s football field June 26 in order to abide by state guidelines for the 226 graduates. The graduation ceremonies kept as much to Hurricane tradition as possible despite gathering limitations due to COVID-19, the school said in a statement.

Pierson High School’s 71 members of the class of 2020 graduated in a ceremony held on the front lawn. “We considered several options for a graduation this year,” Jeff Nichols, the superintendent, said. “The students weighed in, and the most important thing to them was not the pomp and circumstance, but simply being together to mark this momentous occasion.”

Not even the heavy rains could not stop them from celebrating. Most graduates were soaked by the end.

Ruby Yassen, the valedictorian, said in her speech just before the rain worsened, “It truly seems like a miracle, and of course there may come a storm at any minute, but we made it here and are having our ceremony on the hill like so many grades before us.”

A family celebrates a Pierson graduate after a rather wet ceremony on Saturday. Michael Heller/Courtesy Sag Harbor School District

Graduates of Hampton Bays High School were presented with their diplomas during drive-thru commencement exercises on June 26 and 27.  Each senior stepped out of their car and up to a decorated podium in front of the high school to receive their diplomas. Superintendent Lars Clemensen touched on each graduate’s accomplishments while family members snapped photos. Seniors also received adopt-a-senior gift bags containing items donated by generous community members and businesses.

Several other senior recognition events, including a graduation parade over the Ponquogue Bridge and a virtual graduation ceremony featuring the valedictorian and salutatorian’s commencement speeches.

The members of the Southampton High School Class of 2020 also received their diplomas during a drive-thru ceremony at the high school on June 26. The graduates did gather for a traditional cap toss and yearbook signing. The district also held a virtual ceremony in which district administrators wished the Class of 2020 well in their future endeavors.

In Bridgehampton, where there is a small class to begin with, a more traditional ceremony was held outside under a tent by the school on June 26. Jimmy Fallon, who owns a house in nearby Sagaponack, saluted the class with a message of congratulations, posted on the school’s Facebook page earlier in the week.

And, in East Hampton, high schoolers lined up for a drive-thru ceremony at the school. A message from Jimmy Buffet played on a big screen to congratulate the students. The students, who hail from different hamlets, were feted with parades in Springs, Amagansett, and Montauk afterwards.

Riverhead High School hosted small group walking and diploma ceremonies on June 29, June 30 and July 1. Photos will be added to the gallery when they become available.

If you would like to contribute photos to this gallery of any school on the East End, please email [email protected]



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