Class of 2021 graduates in person


Jade Ciriello, Staff Writer

The Class of 2021 will have an in-person, masked graduation, which has been the administration’s goal since January of 2021, Head of Upper Division Dr. Jessica Levenstein said. 

Students will sit three feet away from one another near the stage, their families will sit in their own pods facing the stage, and faculty will sit together on the side of the stage, she said. As per the spacing in the pods, students are only allowed to bring six guests due to distancing protocols. In past years, alumni parents and the Board of Trustees were on stage alongside Levenstein and Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly. This year, however, the only people on the stage will be the Dean of the Class of 2021, Dr. Susan Groppi, Kelly, and Levenstein, who will hand out the diplomas, Levenstein said. 

Kelly is currently creating a list of requirements for all attendees, who also have to show proof of a vaccine or negative PCR test, Levenstein said. 

The tent will be much larger than those used in past years in order to maintain social distancing protocols, Levenstein said. Given the tent’s size, it will be oriented so that the back of the stage faces Pforzheimer. 

Because attendees will be distanced, there will be screens installed on the stage so those in the back can see the stage, she said. The event will also be live-streamed on the school’s Vimeo channel so that those who are unable to attend in person can still watch it.

The biggest challenge while planning graduation has been following the state-mandated rules, Levenstein said. Until a few months ago, the administration did not know whether they would be allowed to have a graduation because of state rules. As the state precautions evolve, the administration adjusts rules, such as the number of guests students can bring, she said. 

Unlike past years, there will be no musical performances from the chorus, orchestra, and band ensembles, Upper Division Library Department Chair Caroline Bartels said. To replace the lack of musical entertainment, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches will play on a loop before the ceremony, she said.  

Seniors are grateful that they are able to have their graduation in person because it serves as recognition of the past four years of hard work, Kate Bown (12) said. “I’m excited to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride and gratitude for my experience and knowing we all made it together.”

Ari Salsberg (12) is thankful the year will end with an in-person ceremony. “There’s something that feels more genuine about it,” he said. 

Ahaana Shrivastava (12) is looking forward to spending time with her friends, family, and teachers during graduation. “I really want to end my time at Horace Mann with a more impactful day,” she said. “Having an in-person graduation means getting to see all of our friends, peers, teachers, classmates, and faculty members for the last [time] on a full non-academic day, which will really make us feel like we’re ready to move on to the next step.” 

Similarly, Lauren Gay (12) said she is glad her parents will be able to see her walk across the stage in-person, especially since she has attended the school since kindergarten. An online graduation would be frustrating and difficult, she said. 

Since the school has limited the number of guests in attendance and required testing to take place before the event, Shrivastava is not worried about potential health risks associated with an in-person graduation.  

“It will be, as this whole year has been, different,” Levenstein said. “But my real hope is that the spirit of the day, which is a celebration of this grade, will be the same as always.”