Tuesday, April 23, 2024

In addition to missing out on a traditional graduation, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School students missed prom because of the coronavirus. Artist Kristen Joy Emack took portraits of Ahmad and others in prom wear to commemorate the missed event. (Photo: Kristen Joy Emack)

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School seniors got a virtual graduation ceremony Thursday, with opening greetings in several languages, student reflections and musical performances – and, unfortunately, some skipped names.

“There were a small number of students whose names were not announced. While this was not done intentionally, the impact nevertheless has been significant for students and families,” principal Damon Smith said in a Friday email. “We have reached out to the impacted families to offer our deepest apologies and have shared steps that will be taken to correct the omissions and update the broadcast.”

The video was put together before May 25, parents were told.

Attempts to get more details Monday were unsuccessful. District offices remain partially closed because of coronavirus, and finding staff to speak with was impossible. Phone calls and email were not immediately returned, but were answered June 18, 2020, by the district’s Lyndsay Pinkus Brown.

The graduating class was 506 students; 14 were skipped, Pinkus said.

“Planning for graduation is always hectic and complex, and was made more complicated by the closure and working remotely. There were a number of factors that led to this unfortunate mistake,” she said, citing a state decision that it had to certify MCAS waivers for students who requested them; and a reliance on yearbook photos. Some students did not attend scheduled or makeup opportunities for graduation photos, did not submit alternative photos or did not want their image used in the ceremony, Pinkus said.

The district is “going to make this up to these students in every way that we can,” she said.

Little in the community

School Committee member Fred Fantini said Monday that he was unhappy with the error.

“I think it’s unacceptable. I think many of these students went to our schools for 12 years and deserved a better sendoff,” Fantini said. “The graduation was prerecorded, so there was ample time to review it.”

In comparison, Somerville and other communities had posters hanging and held parades and other socially distanced events for their graduates, and “our one way [to recognize them], we weren’t able to pull off,” Fantini said. “I hope our school system finds a way to make it up to them.”

An in-person, outdoor second graduation ceremony is in the planning stages for the high school; state education officials say such events can take place July 19 or afterward, and Smith said the school was “committed to having an event on or after” that date, likely at Harvard Stadium, with students invited to take part in the planning. Eighteen are already involved, Smith said, with the first virtual meeting set for Monday.

“As enjoyable as the virtual commencement was, not having a way to celebrate the accomplishment of graduation in person makes the school experience feel incomplete,” Smith said in his email.

Some additional images from Kristen Joy Emack’s “Prom Interrupted” project:

Abi. (Photo: Kristen Joy Emack)

Olive. (Photo: Kristen Joy Emack)

Raven. (Photo: Kristen Joy Emack)

Kayla. (Photo: Kristen Joy Emack)

This post was updated June 18, 2020, with information from the school district on class size, skipped graduates and some causes for the errors in the virtual graduation ceremony.