MONTAGUE — The graduating class of Franklin County Technical School processed onto the field on Friday and found their places in front of the stage — just as they would have during any other year.
Only this year, students processed onto the field from the comfort of their air-conditioned vehicles and remained inside them until it was time to pick up their diplomas.
“We didn’t see this coming,” said Principal Brian Spadafino. “I know it’s different than we pictured, sharing this moment with family sitting next to you and shopmates parked beside you.”
When students and their guests arrived to the campus on Friday afternoon, temperatures were checked and vehicles were directed to parking areas organized by shop class.
When the ceremony began, the vehicles processed from their original parking spots to the field outside the school, where they lined up in rows facing the stage. Graduates and their guests remained in their vehicles until students — grouped by shop class — were called up to the stage to receive their diplomas.
After receiving their diplomas, students were instructed to return to their vehicles so each shop class could exit the field in a procession similar to the one they arrived in.
Officials said the modified arrangement was considered the best way to maintain as much of the traditional graduation ceremony as possible, while accounting for the social distancing necessities of the COVID-19 crisis.
School Committee Chair Richard Kuklewicz called it “the most closely choreographed graduation” he had ever seen.
Superintendent Richard Martin told graduates they had experienced a number of “firsts” for the school. They were the first not to have final exams, he noted, and the first to celebrate commencement from inside their vehicles.
“You are the first and only graduating class in the history of Franklin County Tech to have the option of attending a graduation ceremony in air conditioning,” he said.
Salutatorian Benjamin Bardwell thanked his teachers and congratulated his peers, noting the challenges and triumphs they’ve faced along the way.
“Class of 2020, we’ve made it,” he said. “Even though it’s not everything we expected when thinking of graduation the last year, the events that have happened in our lives have made us stronger … and prepared us for anything that could come our way.”