By ARDEN BASTIA and JOHN HOWELL Having been the site for one outdoor graduation and a Dancing Under the Stars fundraiser for Mentor RI last year, Aldrich Mansion on Warwick Neck has become graduation central for Toll Gate, Pilgrim and Bishop Hendricken
Having been the site for one outdoor graduation and a Dancing Under the Stars fundraiser for Mentor RI last year, Aldrich Mansion on Warwick Neck has become graduation central for Toll Gate, Pilgrim and Bishop Hendricken high schools.
With Narragansett Bay as the backdrop, seniors will cross the stage to receive their diplomas while family and friends, limited to one car per student, watch from lawn chairs. Close-ups of the proceedings will be provided on two large screens and the audio broadcast so it can be followed over car radios.
Hendricken Principal Mark DeCiccio said graduation would have the traditional pomp and circumstance complete with commencement speakers, awards and musical selections.
It’s going to be a “beautiful and much deserved send-off to a class that was really short changed in the spring, so we felt that it was imperative to send them off to their next chapter with class and excellence, just what we did, and we’re hoping to do just as good if not better for this class. They’ve gone through a lot and we really care about our students and want to make sure they know that,” DeCiccio said.
Hendricken President Fr. Robert Marciano said Tuesday the school wants to give juniors and seniors the class experiences they deserve. He said the senior prom would also be held at the mansion outside and that the junior prom would be on the football field.
“We don’t have a prom because you can’t dance is ridiculous,” he said. What about state COVID restrictions?
“We’ll figure it out,” he said.
The Hendricken class of 2020 pioneered the outdoor graduation at the Aldrich Mansion on June 26.
Impressed with the success of that event, Mentor RI, which had to cancel its major fundraiser, Dancing With the Stars of Mentoring, last April, planned an evening event featuring video performers of the dancers. Dancing Under the Stars of Mentoring was held on a clear evening, with stars shining, Nov. 8.
The Hendricken graduation is planned for June 18 at 8:30 p.m. Toll Gate and Pilgrim graduations are slated for June 15, with June 16 as the rain date. The Toll Gate ceremony would be at 11 a.m. The Pilgrim graduation would be that afternoon at 3.
William McCaffrey, director of secondary schools, said that a graduation committee selected Aldrich as the venue because of its picturesque setting and its ability to maximize the number of people with a drive in ceremony.
Citing restrictions on the size of gatherings and the fact the state is allowing for larger outdoor events, McCaffrey said, “This will celebrate seniors’ success in the best possible way.”
He added, “it beats the view of the CCRI gymnasium any day.”
The plan calls for graduating seniors to sit in chairs 6 feet apart facing the stage. They would be roped off from parking that would be behind the chairs.
The city graduations promise to be more expensive than the $15,000 it has cost the department to use the CCRI field house. On Tuesday, the School Committee approved $2,500 to the Diocese of Providence for the use of Aldrich property and $20,460 to Advanced Production Design – the company that did the Hendricken graduation and Mentor RI events last year.
Last Thursday at the weekly coronavirus conference, Tom McCarthy, executive director of the state’s COVID-19 response, announced relaxed gathering restrictions. Between now and May 15, events can happen with 250 people indoors or 500 people outdoors. As of May 15, events can happen with 500 people indoors and 1,000 people outdoors. As of June 5, events can happen with 500 people indoors or 2,000 people outdoors.
At these events, masks are required and social distancing is required. And at indoor events, testing is strongly recommended 48 hours in advance, according to the Department of Health.
Any events with more than 500 people in attendance, graduations excluded, must be submitted to the Department of Business Regulations for approval at least 30 days prior.
These rules apply to non-catered events. Events serving food or with catering have separate restrictions, according to the DOH.
“Since restrictions have been lifted, we’re putting our students first and think they deserve as many in-person events we can give them,” DeCiccio said.
McCaffrey noted that the schedule allows for 14 days quarantine prior to graduation should a student test positive.
“Although we see the light at the end of the tunnel, we still have to be careful,” he said.