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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
When Gov. Larry Hogan ordered school buildings closed on March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no one imagined that students would not return this school year.
Seniors who were looking forward to their final Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival performance, their last season of spring sports, attending prom and walking across a stage to accept their diploma are instead grieving what should have been.
Sherwood Principal Dr. Eric Minus acknowledges the widespread challenges, saying he is working 14- or 15-hour days from home.
He said he understands the disappointment of the senior class, which totals about 500 students, and says school officials and parents are trying to do what they can to make up for it.
“We are all on the same team; everyone’s disappointed,” he said. “We are looking into what the school can do to celebrate our seniors that meets the MCPS guidelines, and we have a lot of great things planned.”
The school has created a COST (Celebrating our Seniors Together) Program, which kicked off last week with a virtual program shown on the schools YouTube channel at 7 p.m. each day.
The programs included the awards ceremony, athletic awards, an arts and music celebration, and “Stepping Stones” that highlighted the graduates’ plans after graduation.
“This tribute to our seniors was an intensive undertaking, but we feel like it was worth it because our seniors deserve it,” Minus said.
He said other “surprises” are in the works, but he did not want to disclose them.
Montgomery County Public Schools has planned a virtual universal graduation ceremony on June 7 for all high schools in the county, but Sherwood will have its own celebration at a later date, and Minus said it will be a more personalized way to honor Sherwood’s graduates.
When he thinks of the Class of 2020, the word that comes to his mind is “resilience.”
“They took a challenging situation and turned it into a positive,” Minus said.
He said the class is also optimistic and collaborative.
“They understand the challenges we are facing and want to be part of the solution,” he said.
The prom was scheduled for May 8, but canceled due to the state order that prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people.
“That does not mean we aren’t looking into other options to bring the Class of 2020 together for a future celebration, when it is safe to do so,” Minus said.
MCPS offers systemwide celebration
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) will honor the more than 10,500 seniors of the Class of 2020 with a systemwide Universal Graduation Celebration on June 7, featuring Jose Andres, chef, humanitarian and founder of World Central Kitchen as the commencement speaker.
Produced in collaboration with NBC4, it will air at 6 p.m. on Cozi TV (broadcast over-the-air on channel 4.2, Verizon Fios channel 460 and Xfinity channel 208) and on MCPS TV (Comcast channel 34, Verizon channel 36 and RCN channel 89).
It will also stream live on the MCPS website. Replay will be available on the MCPS website and YouTube channel.
The live Universal Graduation Celebration will also feature remarks from MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith and Board of Education President Shebra Evans and messages from MCPS alumni.
All high schools will also host individual virtual ceremonies for their students June 8-12.
Parents, guardians and family members are encouraged to email short videos and photos honoring their graduates to email@example.com. The pieces may be included during the Universal Graduation.
Parents step up
Randall MacGill, Sherwood’s PTSA president, said the parent-teacher-student organization is “working to do what it can within the constraints of our bylaws and in coordination with the school and MCPS.”
No plans were firm at The Greater Olney News press time.
He said the organization is limited by its bylaws “that weren’t written with a global pandemic in mind.”
“A lot of focus has been on the seniors, but our eighth-graders and fifth-graders are going through a big transition, too,” he said. “I offer my deepest sympathies for all of these students missing out on milestones.”
MacGill said he is pleased to see parents stepping up to help honor the students in various ways.
“I am happy to see these grassroots efforts popping up,” he said. “We deeply appreciate it.”
Becky Wessling, a parent of a senior, coordinated the sale of yard signs honoring Sherwood’s seniors.
In an email to The Greater Olney News, her husband, Ryan Wessling wrote, “The class of 2020 will never experience the rite of passage that generations before them did: prom, graduation, senior pranks, their final season of spring sports, perhaps even graduation. This is very hard for these kids, and perhaps as hard for their parents who know what their children are missing. It is hard even writing this, to think about my daughter and the experiences she is missing as I recall my senior year and the fun I had.”
Parents also organized a Senior Parade that was scheduled to be held after The Greater Olney News press time.
The Greater Olney News reached out to principals at James Hubert Blake High School and Col. Zadok Magruder High School, but did not receive a response.
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