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Conclusion of 2020-21 School Year and Commencement Update

To the Northwood Community:

We are looking forward to welcoming students back to campus for the conclusion of the school year. I am writing today to share an update about Commencement for our current seniors, the Class of 2021, as well as some new information about how we will end the 2020-21 school year for all students.

In the weeks since Mr. Maher’s previous update about commencement, state and local health departments have provided more clarity about the public health guidelines and regulations that apply to such events; therefore, we are able to share the following about this year’s commencement:

  • The Commencement Ceremony is on Saturday, May 22 at 1:00 pm and will be held outdoors under a tent on campus at Northwood School.
  • The ceremony will include all the elements of our traditional graduation, including a procession with bag pipes, a commencement speaker, student speakers, the conferment of diplomas, awards, and ringing the victory bell.
  • All participants and guests of the ceremony must have a recent negative test for COVID-19 or show proof that they are fully vaccinated. Requiring this allows us to significantly increase the number of people who can attend the ceremony.

    The health department requires the test be a PCR test administered no more than 72 hours before the event or a rapid/antigen test administered no more than 6 hours before the event. The final dose in the vaccine series must be at least 14 days before the event.

  • Guests arriving from outside the United States must quarantine according to the New York State Travel Advisory, regardless of the traveler’s vaccine or test status.
  • Students are permitted up to four guests at the ceremony. In the coming days, seniors and their families will receive an email with instructions for indicating the names and contact information for their guests in the event the health department needs that information for contact tracing.
  • As noted previously, public health guidelines prevent us from having the traditional Senior Dinner the evening before commencement, so we will not hold that event this year.

We have also made the decision to end the school year for all students, including underclass students, on Thursday, May 20. That means students in grades 9-11 will depart campus for summer break before commencement. Classes that offer them will embed final exams into the last week of classes, and our LEAP program is on pause again this year, so the earlier departure does not have a significant effect on instructional time for the trimester. They may leave after their final classes on May 20 or take the charter bus to Albany or New York City on Friday morning, May 21.

Because of capacity limitations, underclass students will not attend the Class of 2021’s Commencement Ceremony, unless they are one of the four guests invited by the graduates. This is a departure from our tradition of having all underclass students attend graduation, but we could not allow seniors to invite four guests if all our underclass students attended.

The final week of school will include numerous events open only to students and staff at Northwood, including:

  • A Prom to celebrate the class of 2021, outdoors and under the tent, the weekend before graduation. Due to COVID protocols, outside guests will not be permitted at prom.
  •  The final school meeting of the year and yearbook dedication (livestreamed and recorded) held in-person and outside under the tent. Yearbook distribution will follow the meeting.
  • Athletics and co-curricular awards banquet outdoors and under the tent (the ceremony will be livestreamed and recorded).
  • Underclass academic awards and underclass Cum Laude Society Induction Ceremony under the tent (livestreamed and recorded) attended by underclass students and faculty.
  • Senior awards banquet and formal dinner for seniors and faculty only (award ceremony will be livestreamed and recorded). This is the presentation of the senior awards traditionally distributed before commencement. The commencement ceremony on Saturday will include the awards traditionally given at that event.

I hope this update provides clarity about how we will celebrate the Class of 2021 and end 2020-21 school year. In the coming weeks we will send more information about each of the events described here.

Best regards,

John Spear Assistant Head for School Life