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Jackson high school seniors prepare to graduate after a year unlike any other

JACKSON – Superintendent of Schools Stephen Genco has announced that while a virtual graduation ceremony for the two high school in the Jackson School District will take place as scheduled on June 19, plans are being made to host an in-person graduation in July.

Gov. Phil Murphy has eased restrictions on outdoor events as the 2020 coronavirus pandemic eases. In-person graduations may be held beginning July 6, with certain guidelines to be followed.

Genco said district administrators must certify diplomas for students at Jackson Memorial High School and Jackson Liberty High School and cannot wait until July to do so.

“You have kids going into the military who have to report July 1, you have transcripts that have to go out, all this has to be done in June, so that is the point of the virtual graduations.

“After July 6, we could have a ceremony outside, but there will be guidelines in regard to the number of people who can attend … so at this point it does not look like we (will) be able to have one ceremony for each side of town,” the superintendent said this week.

Genco said there has never been an academic year like 2019-20. When the coronavirus pandemic struck New Jersey in mid-March, all schools were closed and students and teachers shifted to remote learning. Schools have remained closed ever since.

“I would like to commend all the stakeholders; the students, the parents who became teachers/helpers, and certainly our teaching staff and administrative staff. This has been one heck of an ordeal and a very difficult thing to pull off and I think our district has done it very, very well.

“As far as the seniors, they lost a lot. They have lost their prom, they have lost picnics, they have lost field trips. They certainly have lost the opportunity to have an (in-person) graduation ceremony in June,” Genco said.

The superintendent said just because the seniors’ experience has been different, that “does not mean it has been lousy.”

June 30 will mark Genco’s last day as Jackson’s superintendent as he retires from the position, but he said he would attend an in-person graduation in July.

“I think this class has done a great job. This class has always impressed me. A number of outstanding students have gone above and beyond to try and stay connected with their peers, which wasn’t as easy (while being educated remotely) as it was to showing up in classes every day,” he said.

“We know some graduates and families may be unable or unwilling to attend an in-person ceremony in July due to personal schedules or choices, or due to the fact students may have already left for college or military assignment.

“We also want to respect the suggestions that we should not let June 19 go by without celebrating the last day of their senior year,” the superintendent said.

Administrators said the virtual graduation on June 19 will feature staff and student speeches, remarks by the high schools’ valedictorians and salutatorians, music presentations and personal videos submitted by the seniors.

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